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The Importance of a Will

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Picture this: You’re relaxing on a beautiful beach in Hawaii soaking in the sun’s warm rays. You’re getting ready to plunge into the water for a mid-afternoon dip and possible snorkel when suddenly, your chest tightens up. Your mind starts racing … you think, “Is this a heart attack?” “Was I just stung by some exotic animal and am I having a reaction?” And what about everything back at home – the kids, family, friends, finances – what if something bad were to happen? Luckily, it’s a false alarm – it was simply heartburn from that early taco lunch you feasted on a few hours ago. But that was enough to make you really start to think. 

Planning for what happens after you die is something most people don’t really enjoy, but it is an integral part of financial planning. One of the most common ways to plan is by drawing up a will. But why is a will important? Who needs one? And how should you go about preparing this essential document?

A will essentially specifies your wishes for assets, care for children, and other specific instructions you want to leave when you pass. A will lets you decide how your estate will be distributed, determining the who, what, and when of your estate. A will enables you to decide who will take care of your minor children. Without a will, the courts will decide on choosing a family member or an appointed guardian for them.

Anyone with property and assets should have a will, and it should be updated as your life changes due to events such as marriage, divorce, having children, a death in the family, or acquiring property. A will should be reviewed on an annual basis to make sure it continues to reflect your wishes. If you die without a will in Canada, you are considered legally dying “intestate,” which means there are no instructions on how to divide and distribute your assets. This is not the ideal situation for anyone, so planning is key.

I would recommend having your will drawn up by a lawyer – this is usually the safest route, and it gives peace of mind knowing that things were taken care of by a professional. Do not use the do-it-yourself home will kits, internet print outs, or that napkin on the side coffee table – this could lead to unintended consequences in the end.

Wills do take time to settle and go through; this is what’s called the probate process, (a.k.a., the settlement of a will). But with the proper people in place, this process can be much easier. An executor is someone who carries out the intended wishes of the will and estate, and when drafting a will, it is up to you to decide who you’d want as your executor. The best candidates for this job are responsible individuals who you would place a great deal of trust in. In my experience, we have helped settle several client estates, and the probate process can be lengthy. Therefore, this person would also need some basic understanding and comfort level with finance and numbers. Executors are also entitled to a fee for doing this job, and the fee is considered taxable income to them in the year received.

If you have any questions about wills and estate planning, please contact your advisory team.









Brent Vandekerckhove is a Financial Advisor with RGF Integrated Wealth Management. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of RGF Integrated Wealth Management, which makes no representations as to their completeness or accuracy.

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