Estate planning is rarely on the top of anyone’s to-do list. People avoid it for many reasons: they are too busy, they don’t want to think about death, they don’t understand why they need to do it, or they think it doesn’t apply to them. Sound familiar?
April 7 to 13, 2019 is Make-a-Will-Week in British Columbia and its purpose is to increase awareness of the benefits of having a Will and to encourage the public to make or update their Will.
A Will is the best way to ensure that the people, charities and organizations you cherish most receive the benefit of your estate. Without a Will, your estate is distributed in accordance with the formulas set out in the legislation, without regard to your wishes. If you own anything, even something as simple as a car, you don’t get to decide who will receive it when you pass and your survivors have to deal with a more timely and complicated probate process than if you had a Will.
If you have children, your will is the best way to transfer guardianship to someone you trust and provide instructions to their care and inheritance. If you don’t have a Will, the Court will decide who should be the guardian of your minor children. This may or may not align with what you think is best for your children. This scenario typically also carries with it the involvement by the Public Guardian and Trustee of BC in the management of your children’s inheritance by holding any minor’s share of an estate until the child reaches age 19.
If you don’t have a Will, you are not alone. A 2018 study found that overall, only 44% of adults have a Will in place, and only 57% of homeowners have a current Will.
If you don’t have a Will, now is the time to get one. It’s as easy as contacting a lawyer to get the process started.
As each person has a unique family and asset picture, Wills should be specifically drafted for their needs. Beware of “one size fits all” Will tools, which fail to address the unique family profile of each person. The resulting Will may not meet your estate planning needs or may not accurately reflect your wishes. Notaries provide Will services and may be a good option for individuals who require a very simple Will. However, it must be understood that Notaries are unable to provide the same depth of legal knowledge and advice that a lawyer can provide for more complex situations
A solid Will and Estate plan is a good investment. The cost to have a Will written depends on the complexity of your situation. In the event that a dispute arises with respect to the validity of your Will or your estate, litigation costs in BC Supreme Court often exceed $50,000. It is therefore important to ensure you invest in and receive quality advice at the time you make your Will to avoid much more significant costs later.