Do You Have a Will?

John

POSTED BY

John Hale

Financial Advisor

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Is that will of yours looking a little worn and tattered or perhaps you don’t have a will at all? If the answer is yes, you are not alone. According to a January 2018 study by the Angus Reid Institute, 66% of Canadians say they either don’t have a will or it is not up-to-date.

Every adult who owns assets or has a spouse or young children should have a will. If you don’t have a will, you lose control over the distribution of your property and your estate will be distributed to your next of kin under the Wills, Estates and Succession Act. You also give up the right to appoint a guardian of your choosing for your minor children and the costs to administer your estate will increase. A will can also help reduce the confusion and uncertainty at the time of your death and provide some reassurance to your family.

A will is a legal document that provides your instructions about how you want your property to be distributed after you pass away. Additionally, it also allows you to:

■ Appoint an executor to act immediately to make funeral arrangements and take control of your estate;
■ Protects your possessions and ensures they are dealt with as you have directed;
■ Provides the opportunity to make suitable arrangements for minor children, other dependents and pets;
■ Clarifies for family and friends what your wishes are and who is to carry them out;
■ Minimizes the costs and efforts involved in administering your estate.

Making your will doesn't need to be complicated or expensive but it is generally a good idea to get help from a legal professional. Wills are a specialized area of law and you want to ensure that all your documents are properly prepared and witnessed. A lawyer can also help you file a "wills notice" with the Vital Statistics Agency. This agency does not keep a copy of your will but they do log the date of the will and its location. This step aids the administration of your estate as a search of the Wills Registry is required for the court probate process to ensure the court has your most current will.

Types of Property Not Included in your Will
A will doesn’t necessarily cover all the property that you own. Any property that is held in joint tenancy (owned equally by two parties), such as a house or a bank account that you own equally with your spouse, will automatically transfer to the surviving owner.A will also doesn’t need to address registered investment accounts such as your RRSPs, RRIFs and TFSAs if you have already named a beneficiary on the account at the financial institution where they are held. The same would apply to trusts and life insurance policies that clearly state a beneficiary.

Choosing your Executor
Careful consideration of your executor is important. Most people choose their spouse, an adult child, parent, or trusted friend. Some people choose a professional such as a lawyer or trust company. Whomever you do choose, you want to ensure they are capable and willing to act. You should also appoint an alternate executor in case the first executor cannot act. Once your will is in place, you should inform your executor where you keep it and other important documents such as a list of the current addresses and phone numbers of your beneficiaries. You should also discuss your funeral arrangements in advance with your executor and family.

Executor's Responsibilities:
■ Safeguard the estate (e.g. change the house insurance if the house is unoccupied, keep vehicles insured etc.);
■ Gather and account foryour assets;
■ Pay your debts including your taxes;
■ Divide and payout what remains of your estate to your beneficiaries.

Update Your Will
If you already have a will, you should review it every five years to make sure that it is current. As your life evolves, your circumstances will change. A change in marital status, the loss of a spouse,a new grandchild and significant increases or decreases in assets, are all potential reasons to update your will. At the same time, you should review your choice of executor to make sure they are still able and willing to manage your estate.

How we can Help
Your RGF advisor can help you with your will so that you leave a legacy and not a mess.

If you don’t have a will, your RGF advisor can help you with your initial will planning and provide a referral to a competent legal professional.

If you already have a will, your RGF advisor can review your existing will to help ensure it accomplishes your wishes in the most tax-efficient manner possible. ■