When Should I Get a Will Done?
By Jenna Lalani, Vancouver Estate Planning and Family Lawyer
Did you know that only 50% of British Columbians have a signed and legally valid will? This statistic is according to a study completed by the BC Notary Association in 2020 and is one of the reasons why October 2 – 8th, 2022 is Make a Will Week, designed to encourage people to prepare or update their wills.
When should I get a will?
You don’t need to wait until you’re older to get a will. There are several life stages where it is a good idea to get one done, including the following:
- becoming a homeowner
- having assets in your name
- coming into an inheritance
- getting married
- having children
- separation or divorce
- managing a business
What is included in a will?
A will sets out your wishes in the event of death. You’ll want to allocate your assets and appoint someone to manage your estate and carry out your wishes. You can name individuals and charities to benefit from your estate and have strict instructions on when and how a person or entity receives the inheritance.
Along with allocation of assets, a will can set out how one’s business is dealt with as well as their digital assets. As we live in a world surrounded by technology, with pictures and videos on various social media platforms, giving clear instructions in your will regarding these assets is important so they aren’t lost and forgotten. If you’ve ever wondered what happens to your Facebook page or social media accounts in the event of your death, you can control that by having a will with language setting out your intentions for your digital assets.
A will can also designate a guardian to look after your children and pets as well as include trust terms for their care. These trust terms can provide direction such as when and in what instances funds can be accessed for their benefit.
Your will even sets out your funeral and remains wishes. Some people wish to be buried or cremated, while others explore the idea of a green burial or creating diamonds from their remains. A will can set out your desire and can give your executors direction as to your funeral arrangements.
Who should I name as an executor?
An executor of a will has the power and ability to manage your estate and can essentially do as you would do if you were alive. They can rent out your home and invest your assets if they are managing it in good faith and doing what is best for your estate. You want to ensure that you trust the person as you are appointing them to take care of your entire estate. An executor will:
- allocate your money, real estate, and personal assets
- assist your appointed guardian with the transition and funds for the care of your children
- act as a trustee for a trust created if your children are minors
- carry out your funeral wishes
- manage any business interests
- handle your digital assets
They are the controlling body of your estate and will have access to all your accounts and property.
Who should I name as the guardian of my children?
Similar to naming an executor, it is important to name someone you trust as the guardian of your children. It is also important that your minor children have a relationship with this appointed individual so that any transition will be easier on them. It’s worth considering the relationship that your executor has with your appointed guardian, as they will be working together so that funds are available for the benefit of the children throughout their upbringing.
What happens if I don't have a will?
If you pass without a will, you are considered to die intestate. If you are intestate, the government can control the division and allocation of your assets. The Wills, Estates and Succession Act sets out how your assets would be divided. If you have minor children and there is no will setting out the intended guardian, there could be a delay in getting your children set up as a person would have to make an application to the court to carry out this role. Further, there could be multiple individuals fighting over being appointed and it can delay the process and increase the costs. Having a will would be a far more cost-efficient and less stressful option for your loved ones.
People often say that they don’t care or there is no family left to name as beneficiaries so there is no point getting a will. However, a will can allow you to name charities or organizations as beneficiaries so that your estate can be of benefit to someone, even if you do not have anyone close to leave it to.
In addition, what is often overlooked is that the costs for administrating your estate will likely be higher when you do not have a will as there is no one appointed to manage your estate and distribute assets. A court application is needed to have someone appointed to do this.
Contact an estate planning lawyer if you are looking to put an estate plan in place. Along with a will, there are two additional important documents that you might want to consider: a power of attorney and representation agreement/personal directive. These ‘living will’ documents set out who is appointed to manage your financial and legal affairs as well as make health-related decisions if you were alive and incapable of making those decisions yourself.
Make a Will Week
In support of Make a Will Week, from October 2 to October 8, 2022, Crossroads Law has a promotion for a full estate planning package which includes a will, power of attorney, and a representation agreement/personal directive for an individual for $799 (regularly $899). Book your free 20-minute consult this week to qualify for the promotion with either Jenna Lalani (BC) or Amanda Marsden (Alberta).