Have you planned for the future? Is your estate plan completely up to date?
Having a good estate plan in place helps your family and friends feel confident that they are carrying out your wishes. It gives them the gift of peace of mind, and does not simply address what happens after you die. Other important elements of a solid estate plan include advance care planning documents such as Powers of Attorney, Representation Agreements and/or Advance Directives.
Why do you need a will?
A November 2010 BC Notaries’ Poll conducted by the Mustel Group revealed that only 51% of British Columbians have a current and legal Will. The idea of making a Will might make you uncomfortable and it is easy to put this out of your mind. However, there are several very important reasons why you should have a Will. Without a Will there is doubt, anxiety, stress, hurt feelings, and delays in administering the estate. There is even uncertainty about what the final funeral arrangements should be and who should pay for them. The kindest thing you can do for your loved ones is to leave your affairs in good order.
Can I make my Will myself?
You certainly can. However, a Will must meet a strict set of requirements set by legislation and case law in order to be valid. If ANY of these requirements are not met, the Will is invalid. Drawing your Will with the assistance of a Notary allows you to rest assured that these requirements will be met. The requirements for a valid Will are:
- You must be 19 years old. Once WESA comes into force on March 31, 2014, the age requirement will change to 16.
- You must be mentally capable. Mental capability can be negatively affected by illness, accidents or drug treatment.
- The Will must reflect your true wishes. If someone misleads you or puts pressure on you, the Will is not legal.
- The Will, including any alterations, must be written, signed and witnessed according to the requirements set out in the Wills, Estates and Succession Act.
- At the time you sign it, you must have knowledge and approval of the contents of the Will.
Making a Will is important because…
It gives you control over what happens to your assets when you die. This way you can make sure that the things you own go to the people you want to have them. If you die without a Will, the distribution of your Estate will follow a scheme set by law, which may not reflect your true wishes. It also gives you the the chance to name a person you trust as your Executor. If you die without a Will, the Court will appoint an Administrator of your Estate. This may be someone you may not have wanted to have control of your affairs. Disputes may arise among your family and friends as to who should be appointed. There are time and cost savings to consider. Applying for a Grant of Administration results in longer delays and greater legal expenses for your Estate than Probate of a Will.
Other benefits of having a Will include having the opportunity to choose your minor child’s Guardian. If you die without a Will, the Court will appoint a Guardian. The appointed Guardian may not be the person that you would have chosen. Disputes over guardianship can easily arise. It also provides opportunities to reduce taxes by leaving certain assets to your spouse. If you die without a Will, your assets may be left to your children, which would result in a higher tax liability to the Estate.
Did you know that you can also leave gifts to your favourite charities in your Will, which can also reduce your Estate’s tax liability? And perhaps the most important aspect of having a Will is giving your family members time to comfort one another in the event of your death, rather than consulting lawyers about your Estate.
When should I update my Will?
Your Will should be updated any time you have undergone a major life change such as marriage, divorce or separation, having children or the death of a partner.
Need assistance? I have expertise in the following areas…
- Estate Planning
- Wills Preparation
- Wills Searches
- Powers of Attorney
- Representation Agreements
- Advance Directives
If you have questions, I have answers. Please don’t hesitate to contact me.
*Some of the above material was adapted from various publications by The People’s Law School, all of which may be found at http://www.publiclegaled.bc.ca/. The People’s Law School is a non-profit charitable society whose purpose is to provide British Columbians with reliable information about their rights and responsibilities under the law.