Do you really need a Will?
1. What is a Will?
A Will is a legal document that outlines your wishes as to how your property is to be distributed after your death and who should have guardianship over your children.
2. Why should you have a Will?
Without a Will, the state decides how to distribute your assets to your beneficiaries according to its’ laws. The outcome may not reflect your wishes, and may cause your family a lot of time, money and grief. For this reason, and for your peace of mind, having a Will is necessary.
Certain life events, including marriage or divorce, will require you to update or draft a new Will. Other events such as births of children, deaths of certain individuals, adoptions, changes of domicile or residence and substantial changes in net worth may also trigger the need to amend or change your Will completely. If your lawyer has drafted a well thought-out Will that contemplates such events, changes may not be necessary in the future.
3. What is included in a Will?
A Will typically includes:
(a) Appointment of Estate Trustees
The person(s) you select as your trustee(s) will have a great deal of responsibility, including attending to your funeral and burial arrangements, collecting and protecting estate assets, satisfying all liabilities (including paying taxes and paying off any creditors), defending the validity of the will (if necessary), and dealing with your estate as per your wishes.
(b) Guardian of Children
One of the most difficult decisions is appointing a guardian to your children should you and the biological parent of your children die simultaneously.
A Will specifies who your beneficiaries are (the individuals or organizations who are to receive any gifts or property from your estate).
(d) Trustee Powers
How much discretion you grant to your Trustees is up to you. You may leave specific instructions (such as all property is to be liquidated and split evenly amongst your beneficiaries) or you may grant your trustee more discretion to make appropriate choices (such as the option to retain assets that are profitable, or dispose of investments that are not profitable for the benefit of your beneficiaries).
(e) Division of Your Estate
A Will instructs your Trustees how to distribute your property and to whom.
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Once you accumulate assets, you should consider drafting a Will, no matter how young or old you may be.
It is important to keep your Will in a safe place such as Safety Deposit Box or Fire-proof Safe and inform your family members of its' location.
When a person dies without a valid will, Ontario's Succession Law Reform Act governs how the estate is to be distributed.