Writing a will is one of those responsibilities many people put off indefinitely. But nobody should be without a will — it gives you the unique opportunity to exercise your rights and to decide where your assets go. A will ensures your wishes are respected and that nothing is left open to misinterpretation.
Without it your estate is distributed according to the laws of the province where you live. These laws are inflexible and may not take into consideration the care of people or organizations you wish to remember. The way to ensure your wishes are followed is to have a will.
Q: Aren’t provincial laws adequate for most situations?
No, because they’re impersonal — they don’t make exceptions and property is distributed according to an all-purpose plan. For example, these laws may deplete your estate unnecessarily, requiring that a court-appointed administrator be bonded.
The laws also try to guess your desires concerning who should be your administrator and who should be guardian of any minor children. They also cannot make charitable bequests or gifts to causes you supported in your lifetime, such as Amnesty International. Only a personal will can do that.
Q: Don’t only wealthy people need wills?
This is a common misunderstanding. In reality, the smaller the estate the more important it is to settle quickly in order to avoid additional expense. This can only happen with a properly written will.
Q: Don’t only people with troublesome relatives need wills?
Wrong. Even family members with the best intentions may be puzzled and confused as to what your wishes may have been in the absence of a will.
Q: Isn’t it expensive to have a will prepared?
Wills are usually less costly than people expect and definitely less than the emotional and financial cost of not having a proper will.
Lawyers charge for their time and knowledge, so the more time you save them the more money you’ll save yourself. Before seeing a lawyer, make a list of all your property including real estate, bonds, savings accounts, RRSPs, jewelry, family heirlooms and works of art; list the people you want to provide for along with their ages, addresses and personal relationship to you; name your executor and alternative executor (preferably both younger than yourself) and suggest a guardian for any minor children.
To receive a free information package on wills and bequests, you can write to Amnesty International, 312 Laurier Ave. East, Suite 204, Ottawa, Ontario K1N 1H9.