There’s no need to wait until retirement to get a will in place.
According to a new poll by Angus Reid, 50 per cent of adult Canadians do not have a will. The results were not too surprising, representing a slight improvement on the situation in 2018, when the same organization found 51 per cent were without one.
I was a little more shocked to see that more than a third of the population between the ages of 55 and 64 still had not gotten around to drafting a will. Of those over-55s with a will in place, another large chunk were out of date, leaving less than half with up-to-date testamentary documents.
The stats suggest that retirement is the most effective spur for Canadians to get their estate plan in order, since the proportion of those without a will drops to just 13 per cent for over-65s.
Some of the most common reasons cited by those without a will include the cost of the process and their lack of assets. In addition, many expressed their unwillingness to discuss intimate details of their lives with a stranger or to simply think about their own death.
As much as I understand how challenging it can be to confront your own mortality, your loved ones will thank you later for putting yourself through that little bit of discomfort.
Should the worst happen before you can get your wishes down in writing, they will be placed in a very precarious position at the worst possible time: family and friends will already have enough on their plate without the added stress of an intestacy to contend with.
When someone dies without a will in Ontario, the government effectively decides what will happen to their property – via the province’s Succession Law Reform Act, which sets strict rules for the distribution of assets.
Under the Act, the deceased’s surviving spouse gets the first $350,000 from any estate, with the remainder divided between the spouse and any surviving children. When there is just one child, the assets are split equally with the spouse.
If there is more than one child, then the spouse gets one-third of the amount over $350,000, and the remaining two-thirds are divided equally among all the children.
But the Act makes no provision for the individual circumstances of the deceased, which is a recipe for hurt feelings and disagreement among those left behind, especially for testators with more complex family arrangements.
An experienced trusts and estate lawyer can help you take control of your affairs by minimizing the tax your estate will pay, establishing funeral and burial wishes and choosing guardians for minor children.
Once you’ve gone to the trouble of drafting a will, revisiting your choices every few years is critical to ensure the trustees and beneficiaries you named first time around still make sense.
Major life events – think the birth of a child, marriage, divorce, a major change in net worth, or maybe even Make a Will Month – should also prompt a fresh look at your estate plan.
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