Why Write a Will?
A will is also referred to as a Last Will and Testament, a document that becomes valid after your death. In it, you express what you want to happen to your assets and property. Writing a will with your lawyer ensures that your assets are distributed exactly as you want. Without a will, even if you have verbally expressed your desires, your assets may not go to those you’d like to have them.
Writing a will may not be at the top of your to-do list. There’s no predetermined time in your life that is the “perfect” time to do it. Some people approach the subject after receiving a serious medical diagnosis. Some choose to do it when they get married, or when they have their first child. These are all significant life events that, if you haven’t done it already, should spur you to get that will ready. Planning ahead will benefit everyone involved. According to a poll by the Angus Reid Institute, 51% of Canadians don’t have a will. Don’t be one of them.
People often ask if they need a lawyer to make a will. There are will kits available online that lead you through the process and are very basic. Think of them as one-size-fits-all wills. Your particular situation or circumstances may not be covered. In addition, decoding the legal language can be difficult. The kits come with instructions but if they are not followed to the letter your will may not stand up as a legal document.
Consulting a lawyer is the safest way to complete a will that follows your wishes and provides for your loved ones.
Included in Your Will
In addition to distribution of your assets, other issues that may pertain to you will be covered in your will. One such item is setting up a trust. Young children cannot receive an inheritance in Canada. A trust, managed by an appointed Trustee, is set up so that the money is held safe until the child is old enough to manage the money on their own.
Also concerning children, if something happens to both parents, a will is used to name the people you have chosen for guardianship. If you don’t choose a guardian in your will, the judge will appoint a guardian. This may or may not be the person you would have chosen.
In Addition To Your Will
Two other legal documents are very important to complete in preparation for serious illness and end of life. An Advanced Healthcare Directive and an Enduring Power of Attorney.
An Advanced Healthcare Directive is a legal document that serves as informed consent for a medical situation in which you are unable to discuss your wishes for treatment options. These are legal documents outlining medical conditions and treatment options, usually in a templated document, along with personalized notations for each treatment. You can also add values statements to these, that may help clarify your directives in medically complex situations. Advanced Healthcare Directives generally include no CPR, DNR (Do Not Resuscitate), no feeding tube, and other treatments.
Power of Attorney is another important legal document that many older adults consider. It designates that the assigned person can manage money or property on your behalf while you are mentally incapable of handling your affairs. If you become mentally incapacitated, the Power of Attorney ends. An Enduring Power of Attorney allows the designated person to continue to act on your behalf if you become mentally unable to do so.
What If I Change My Mind?
One reason people hesitate to make a will is that they fear once their wishes are in a legal document they are cemented in place. This is not the case. Once you’ve seen a lawyer and have written a will, revisit it every five years or in the event of a significant life change. Do you still want your assets and properties divided the same way? Wills can be revised with documented changes in a Codicil, a supplement to your will that modifies it.
It may seem morbid to think about your death, but it’s the best way to make sure your assets are distributed the way you want. Don’t leave your family in the difficult position of having your estate distributed by a government formula. Write a will and protect your assets—and your loved ones. Call Verhaeghe Law Office today at 587.410.2500 and make an appointment to write your will.