Every year when heading off on vacation, we make sure last minute projects are completed, our pets are cared for while we are away, and our homes are carefully locked up. It’s often at this moment we realize that we don’t have a will.
More than half of Canadians do not have a will. A CIBC survey showed that one third of baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) haven’t prepared one. Maybe it is our reluctance to think about death. It’s hard to think about the possibility of dying when we are young and healthy. Accidents can happen at any time, and it is smart to be prepared.
Unfortunately, not preparing a will, won’t keep you alive any longer. The saying, “the only sure thing is death and taxes” is true. If you wait too long, you may become incapacitated and not be able to.
If you die intestate, that is, without a will, the government uses its own formulas as to who gets what, and it may not be what you would choose. A will is your opportunity to make sure your children or your pets will go to a guardian of your choosing, and any special family treasure are given to whom you choose.
Use a Lawyer or Will Kit?
Another reason, many hesitate, is the cost of setting up a will. A legal firm can charge anywhere from $400 to $1000, depending on where you live in Canada. There are “fill-in-the-blanks” will kits available in the $40-$50 range. Another alternative is the on-line will generators. These will websites work much the same way that the tax preparation apps do, with questions to answer, and can cost from $50-$80. Even a handwritten will is better than nothing and will be valid if it is signed and witnessed.
What Should Your Will Cover?
You will want to designate the potential guardian your children. If you are leaving money to your children, you can say what age they need to be before they receive it. You may also want to include a Power of Attorney for your affairs, financial and medical, should you not be able to make those decisions on your own. You will also choose an executor to manage your estate and make sure your will is carried out.
Choose your Executor Wisely
An important part of your will is choosing your estate representative, trustee, or executor. Your executor manages your estate when you die. Most people will choose a family member that they trust. Make sure you talk to them about it first and ask them if they want the job. It’s a also good idea to have a back-up in case your first choice is unavailable at the time. It’s best to choose someone who lives close by because they can look after matters quickly. For tax reasons, your executors need to reside in Canada.
Review Your Will from Time-to-Time
Whichever way you go, it’s important to revisit your will every now and again and keep it up-to-date. If your marital status changes, it may cancel any will you had previously. You may also want to review your chosen executor because everyone’s life situations can change and that person may no longer be available.
Where Should You keep Your Will?
You will want to keep it safe in a fire-proof lock box, a safety deposit box at a financial institution, or in your freezer.
With a last-will in place, you can rest a lot easier and enjoy that vacation knowing you’ve done your best to make certain that everything has been taken care of.