Estate planning may sound grand, but it just means that you have made plans for what you want to happen when you die, if you are incapacitated, or near death. Essentially, it’s a gift you can prepare while you’re alive for the people or organizations you leave behind.
Make Your Wishes Clear
You need a Will. A Will is a legal document that leaves instructions about what you want done with your estate.
It can save your family a tremendous amount of grief and headache. You may not think it could happen in your family, but the combination of intense emotion and money can turn even the most functional families into feuding and angry antagonists. The best way to minimize this risk is by being very clear and specific in your intentions upon death, and by having those wishes drafted into a legal Will.
What Happens if I Die Without a Will?
If you die without a Will, someone, usually a spouse or adult child, needs to file documents asking the court to appoint him or her to settle your estate. If there is no one who can settle the estate, the Public Trustee takes responsibility and laws determine who will inherit. As a result, an estranged spouse, or a family member you didn’t know existed could inherit everything. The bottom line is, without a Will you have no control over who gets what.
Where Do I Go to Get a Will?
A Will can be drawn up by a lawyer, or other legal professionals like a notary or notary public, or you can do it yourself. However, we strongly encourage you to work with a legal professional because it’s imperative that a Will is drafted, signed and initialed correctly. Otherwise, it could be considered invalid. For most people, the cost of having a Will drawn up is money well spent. You can keep costs down by deciding on the key points before seeing a legal professional. Your Will should clearly state: who you appoint as executor, who you will leave your money and possessions to, and if you have dependent children, who will be their guardian. Burial instructions can also be included.
What Assets are Not Included in my Will?
- Any asset that has a named beneficiary falls outside the jurisdiction of your Will because you have already established who will inherit the asset.
- If a beneficiary is named on RSPs, insurance policies, and pensions, the asset bypasses the Will.
- If you have bank accounts, non-registered investments and real estate assets in joint names (with ‘right of survivorship’), at death, those assets should roll over to the other person named, so these assets don’t need to be included in your Will.
And remember, it is up to you to keep the beneficiaries named on these assets up to date. If your Will simply says that you want your son to inherit your estate, but your sister is still the named beneficiary on your RSP from the days before you had a child, you could accidentally give a large chunk of your assets to the wrong person. Oops…