While most people believe that a Will is something that you prepare once and then forget about, in fact your Will is affected by what is happening in your life and should be reviewed and updated when significant changes in your life occur.
Some events that may have occurred since you last prepared a Will and which may impact your Will include:
- You were married
- You were divorced
- You had children (or you now have more children than when your previous Will was drawn)
- You purchased a home or other property
- Your children are now all adults
- You have grandchildren
- You own a business or other significant asset which was not dealt with in your previous Will
Marriage automatically revokes a Will; however, a divorce does not revoke your Will. As a result, if you made a Will prior to your marriage, your Will may no longer be valid. Conversely, if you made a Will prior to a divorce, your Will may contain provisions for people you no longer wish to benefit from, or be included in, your Estate.
Your previous Will may have been prepared at a time when your children were minors and accordingly many of the provisions may no longer be appropriate. Perhaps your concern is no longer ensuring that your children’s care and education are provided for, and has now shifted to the same concerns for your grandchildren. Alternatively, if your children are still minors, your choice of Guardians may no longer be appropriate. For example, the person(s) may now be elderly or have moved. Consequently, it may be time to think about a more appropriate person to act as Guardian for your children.
If you do not have a Will, or if your Will is no longer valid, provincial governments mandate the distribution of your estate through Intestacy Laws. As impartial as these laws may be, they require the court to appoint someone to administer your estate. This can be both time -consuming and expensive for your estate. Furthermore, the person chosen by the court may not represent your wishes. Intestacy Laws are designed to create a structure that the court can apply for the distribution of your estate; however, it could mean that someone you would wish to remember will receive nothing from your estate or, conversely, it could mean that someone you would not wish to inherit would be entitled to receive a portion of your estate. You, more than anyone, know how best to distribute your assets.
With the help of a lawyer, preparing or updating a Will can be a simple and straightforward process. The preparation of a Will by a lawyer does not need to be a costly affair and can easily be done by a professional. Unfortunately, many families discover, too late, that the costs associated with dealing with an estate where the Will is improperly drafted or out of date are far greater than those of having a lawyer prepare a Will and ensuring that it is kept up to date. Further, a lawyer may be able to provide estate planning advice which could greatly reduce probate fees and taxes at the time of your death, thereby enabling you to leave more to your loved ones.
Having an up-to-date Will is an excellent foundation for a comprehensive estate plan. An estate plan provides peace of mind not only to you but also to your family. Again, it allows you to ensure that your wishes are carried out and your loved ones are protected. An integral part of your estate plan should also be considering what would happen if you were no longer capable of making crucial decisions concerning your health, your finances or the care of your children. “Powers of Attorney” allow you to appoint someone to make decisions regarding both your personal care and your property and asset management. The person(s) named as your Attorney will then be able to take over the responsibility of making these decisions for you if you become incapable of doing so. Having Powers of Attorney in place is just as important as having an up-to-date Will and can be just as easily taken care of with the help of a lawyer.
If you have questions concerning matters or are interested in setting up an appointment to meet with a lawyer to discuss estate planning, please feel free to contact our Estates Department.