Want to keep your affairs in order? It's time to make a Will

You’ve been meaning to get your Will together for years now. Every time you hear about a friend falling ill, or an old classmate dying suddenly far too young, it hits you that you should really sit down and make the time to get things together. Then of course life gets busy, work and family priorities take over your brain space, and that WIll is the last thing on your mind until it happens all over again. 

The problem is - no one else can make your Will for you, especially not after you’re gone. None of your family and friends are mind readers, and legally they can’t guess at what your wishes may have been. Whether you have a lot of assets to pass on or are living modestly, there are still things that are important to you that you’ll want to place in the right hands, and individuals who you’ll want to recognize for their impact on your life. 

November is “Make a Will Month,” but you can make your Will any time of year. Here are 5 reasons why it should be at the top of your priority list: 

Stop the government from deciding your affairs. If you die without a Will, it is known in law as dying ‘intestate.’ In that case, there are a set of strict rules as to who inherits your estate depending on who survives you (spouse, children, parents, siblings, etc.) The ‘intestacy rules’ as they’re known aren’t different from most people’s own wishes, but it means that the government is calling the shots - not you.

Proper estate planning can also help keep the government at bay. There are always taxes to be paid upon death, but working with a lawyer to come up with an estate plan can help avoid surprise tax burdens for your estate. There are several strategic moves that you can make in your lifetime, for example, which will minimize how much of your hard-earned money goes directly to the government. 

Be ready for the worst case scenario. We think of Wills as being necessary for when we die, but what happens if you’re incapacitated and cannot make your own decisions? Along with your Will, a lawyer can help you draft a Power of Attorney for Property, which determines what happens with your assets, and one for Personal Care which determines who makes your medical decisions.

When you draft these documents you get to determine who can speak for you if you’re unable to speak for yourself. These documents  determine who can make medical decisions about your care when you’re no longer able, or who manages your money if you don’t have capacity. These are tremendously important roles, and so it’s crucial to choose someone responsible who you trust to make the right decisions. 

Avoid messy family fights. The family fights over money can tear families apart. From the relative who walks around the house leaving post-it notes on things they want to claim later to the long-lost ones who suddenly resurface at the funeral - estate fights can get messy. The best way to get around them is to make your intentions clear in your Will while you’re still alive.

This is one reason why working with a Wills lawyer is crucial. You cannot intentionally exclude someone from your WIll based on human rights grounds, such as race or religion, but you do have a lot of leeway over who gets what. A lawyer can help you write out these wishes clearly so that they’re harder to dispute once you’re gone. 

Protect those you love. A Will is not always a static, ‘one-and-done’ document. What happens if you have dependants who rely on you financially, or a disabled relative who you help care for - how can you make sure that they stay protected? Without an estate plan, it’s far more difficult to ensure that they’re provided for after you’re gone.

A lawyer can help you set up a trust, which is a pot of money that can be used to provide for these individuals in need. It requires placing someone in charge as a trustee, who oversees the trust and ensures that the person in need receives the money intended for them. These trusts work alongside your will to help protect the people in your life who need it most. 

It’s easy to do! Most Canadians delay making a Will because they’re scared of the process and they don’t want to think about death. That’s understandable, but Wills lawyers are here to help you through the process so that you SHOULDN’T have to worry! We may not be able to control what happens to us in this life, but we can control whether or not we have a plan in place. 

MAKE A WILL NOW, REST ASSURED LATER - We’ve helped thousands of clients throughout Durham Region over the last thirty years ‘get their affairs in order.’ While we’ve helped clients in their final days, it doesn’t need to be that way! Don’t wait until you’re under the gun to make these important decisions. Contact our office today to set up a consultation.

Ian Johncox, Civil Litigation/Employment Lawyer/Mediator

Ian Johncox, Civil Litigation/Employment Lawyer/Mediator

Ian practices in the areas of employment law, occupier liability defence, franchise litigation and contract litigation. Ian is a trained mediator and conducts mediations in a wide range of civil (non-family) cases. His employment law practice includes acting for employers and employees, which gives him a balanced perspective to his clients’ issues.

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