Wills are written documents that are designed to speak for their creators after death. It expresses the manner in which you wish your property and assets to be dispersed after your death. In the event that you should pass away before your children reach maturity, it appoints a guardian who will care for them. Additionally, it provides additional precise instructions, such as your desired burial preparations, in the will. All of these are significant choices that you shouldn’t leave up to a game of chance. Despite this, a survey conducted in 2018 by the Angus Reid Institute indicated that 51% of Canadians do not have a will.
The good news is that it’s not as difficult as you might think it is. Everything you need to know to get yours in order is provided here for your convenience.
Who has a need for a will?
Wills are essential for those who have dependent children, property, or other assets. In addition, after it has been created and signed, it has to be revisited every three to five years to verify that it still reflects your life and the wishes you have expressed. Because of this, it is now possible for it to be modified to reflect any changes that may occur in one’s life, such as getting married, having children, a death in the family, getting divorced, or purchasing property.
When writing a will, what are some important factors to keep in mind?
Wills can be drafted in a variety of ways, each reflecting the individual’s choices with regard to their possessions and their legacy; nonetheless, there are a few components that are standard in all wills. These are the following:
Choosing a guardian for the children under your care. Choosing a guardian (or guardians) for your children who are under the age of 18 is one of the most significant decisions you can make in your will. If your children are under the age of 18, they are considered minors. It is possible that the talk may be challenging. The alternative, however, is as follows: in the unfortunate event that both parents die away unexpectedly at the same time, or if you are a single parent and pass away at an early age, a judge in a family court will be left to make the decision on your behalf. Even though the parents’ choice in a written will is not legally enforceable, a judge will almost always choose that individual to be the formal guardian of the child in the event that the parents pass away. (It is important to keep in mind that the regulations for choosing a guardian might vary from province to province.)
The process of selecting an executor. An executor is a person (or many individuals) who is tasked with the responsibility of administering an estate and ensuring that all of the instructions given in a will are carried out in accordance with the law. If you have a will, you should choose an executor. If you would rather have a friend or a member of your family serve in that capacity, you are free to make that appointment. Keep in mind that this is a function that might come with obligations that are both specific and time-consuming; therefore, it is imperative that you pick wisely. As a result of this, some individuals may decide to designate a competent third party, such as a lawyer, an accountant, or a trust firm.
What takes place if there is no will to govern your estate?
According to most law, passing away without leaving a will is referred to as “intestate.” In practise, it implies that there are no explicit guidelines to follow in order to split or transfer your assets in the appropriate manner. Remember that if a person passes away without leaving a will, the regulations for administering their estate vary depending on the province or territory they lived in. Nevertheless, the procedure is typically time-consuming and costly.
Do you have insurance on your life?
Having the appropriate insurance is a critical component of a successful estate settlement. There are varied requirements for life insurance at each period of one’s life, ranging from the replacement of lost income and the safeguarding of an estate’s growth to the payment of funeral costs and meeting immediate financial necessities upon one’s passing. If you already have life insurance, you should double check that the beneficiaries that you have specified in your policies are also represented in your will, and that both documents are up to date.
Are you prepared to write your will?
It is not necessary for the creation of a will to be complex or expensive. In the event that you are unfamiliar with the procedure, the following are two typical and uncomplicated strategies to make one:
Create one of your own. Wills are valid as long as they are penned in the testator’s own handwriting and signed by the testator. Even though it is not required, having it signed by witnesses is almost always a good idea. If you want to avoid misunderstandings, you should attempt to be as detailed as possible when expressing your desires so that they cannot be taken in a variety of different ways. In addition, your intentions could not be carried out if you are not conversant with the law and give instructions that go against what is permitted by the law in the event that you leave a will.
Get a lawyer to write it up for you. This is often the most secure course of action, particularly if you have a significant amount of assets. A will can be written by a lawyer in such a way that it expresses the testator’s desires unequivocally and leaves no room for ambiguity or confusion. There is no one standard fee that all lawyers will charge, and even the same lawyer may have varied rates for the same service depending on the degree of difficulty of the case.
Once you have a will, you should store it someplace secure (for example, in a box that is resistant to fire, along with other vital documents), and you should also ensure that your executor is aware of its whereabouts. If you have an attorney draught it for you, they will normally maintain a signed original of the document even if you don’t want them to.
The most important reasons to draught a will
We take a look at some of the most compelling arguments in favour of writing a will, as well as the consequences for those left behind if you pass away without leaving a testament.
1. Draft a will that specifies who will take care of your children if you pass away.
When you write a will, your primary responsibility is not to decide how your estate will be split. You also have the ability to choose who will be responsible for the care of your dependents. You have the ability to choose legal guardians for them if they are under the age of 18.
In the event that you do not, the choice may be handed over to the family courts, which may select a person with whom you would disagree.
It’s possible that you’ve asked close friends or family members to stand in as godparents for your kids, but this doesn’t tie them in any way legally.
Learn more about the importance of creating a will for new parents.
2. Make sure that your kids have enough money to live comfortably.
You can establish arrangements to care for your children financially in the future, in addition to deciding who will be responsible for raising your children. This may involve setting aside funds for their schooling, ensuring that they receive a predetermined amount each year for clothing or hobbies, or building up a savings account for them to use when they are ready to purchase a home.
You should give some thought to establishing a trust in order to provide for your children since this enables you to exercise some degree of control over the circumstances under which your children get the money and how they spend it.
You can form a trust in one of two ways: either while you are still alive and do it while you are alive, or you can leave instructions for it to be established after your death and have it done after your death. Check out our comprehensive guide to will trusts to discover more about the many alternatives available to you, as well as how they operate and the potential costs involved.
3. Ensure the financial well-being of your dependents, including any stepchildren
The law specifies that only spouses or blood relations can automatically inherit if there is no will, thus even if your step-children are an important part of your life or even if they are the only children you have, they cannot inherit automatically.
You will need to include your step-children in your will if you intend to provide for them financially in the event that you pass away. The same rule applies to children you have taken in as foster care or any other dependents who could rely on you for financial assistance.
4. Protect your partner if you’re unmarried
No of how long you’ve been together, unmarried partners have no legal claim to anything from your inheritance unless it’s clearly specified in the will of the deceased person.
The creation of a will assures that your spouse will get their rightful portion of your inheritance upon your passing.
5. Ensure the safety of your house for your family.
In the event that you pass away without leaving a will, your unmarried partner and stepchildren do not immediately become eligible to inherit the family home if the property is in your name. This means that they run the risk of being evicted from the property.
You have the option of include them in your will and leaving them either a portion of the property or the right to continue living in the home.
6. Put an end to arguments within the family
If there is no will or if your preferences aren’t made clear, the process of dividing up an inheritance can unfortunately occasionally lead to squabbles and conflicts among the survivors of the deceased.
Contested wills may be harmful to the relationships that you have within your family, and they can also be costly if the decisions that are made regarding your estate are challenged in court.
If you have a will that is well-prepared, it can help you avoid these disagreements and prevent your passing from causing your survivors any further hardship.
7. Stay away from paying more inheritance tax than is absolutely necessary.
The amount of inheritance tax that will be levied on your estate is determined not only by the size of your estate but also by the beneficiaries you choose in your will.
Anything that is bequeathed to a person who is married to you or your civil partner is immediately free from inheritance tax. When compared to leaving property to other people, including your children and grandchildren as beneficiaries of your estate is likely to result in a lesser inheritance tax liability.
Discover more about inheritance tax, including its criteria, rates, and payers here.
8. If you’ve been married for a short time, you should draw out a will.
If you get married in England or Wales, your previous marriage will immediately be deemed null and void. This implies that, according to the rules of intestacy, your inheritance might wind up being shared between your new spouse and children from a prior marriage, which could lead to problems in the future.
If you get married in Scotland, however, your previous will is not instantly invalidated. This means that if you pass away, your new spouse may not inherit anything from your estate if you did not include them in your previous will.
Additionally, getting divorced does not nullify your will, which means that even after the divorce, your ex-spouse may still be eligible to receive from your inheritance.
As a result, it is important to examine your will on a frequent basis to ensure that it continues to accurately represent your circumstances, particularly after major life changes like as marriage or divorce.
9. Determine with whom you would feel most comfortable settling your estate.
You have the ability to appoint an executor, or many executors, inside your will. These individuals will be responsible for following out your last directives.
When you choose your executor in advance, you have the ability to pick the one who is most qualified for the job. In addition to this, it provides the executor with advance notice so that they can get ready.
Have a look at our guide to the probate process if you want to find out more about the duties that come with serving as an executor.
10. Specify the people you want to take care of your animals.
In the event that you die away, your pets, whether they be dogs, cats, or any other kind, would likely need to be cared for.
Only a few dogs have been known to inherit significant wealth, such as the German Shepherd Gunther IV, who was given a sum in the nine figures after his owner passed away in 1992. However, a more frequent practise is to choose a caretaker for them and set aside some funds to ensure that they have adequate nutrition and medical attention.
11. Take precautions to safeguard your digital assets.
These days, money in the bank and material possessions aren’t the only things that might be considered assets. Your digital accounts and online purchases, such as music, images, or websites, are also considered part of your belongings; nevertheless, if you do not account for them in your will, they may be lost forever.
Things like email accounts and social media profiles are also a part of your legacy; ask yourself whether you want the material to be safeguarded or deleted, and consider whether or not your executor will need access to any passwords.
You may find further information on this topic in our guide on the things you should include in your will. Will writing service milton keynes
12. Donate to a good cause.
If you are a donor to a charitable organisation, you could consider leaving anything to that organisation in your will.
If you leave more than 10 percent of your assets to a charitable organisation after you pass away, your heirs may be eligible for a reduction in the amount of inheritance tax they are required to pay as a result of your estate.