The Importance of a Will


Written by on November 10, 2016

The importance of a will cannot be understated. An up-to-date and properly written will can simplify settling an estate after a person’s death, while ensuring that the deceased’s wishes are carried out and desired beneficiaries receive their inheritances. There are a number of different clauses that can be included in a will to tailor it specifically to the needs of the person making the will and their family.

Your Beneficiaries

A will allows you to determine how and when, and to whom your estate (all of your assets, money, property, etc) is divided and distributed.

  • If you do not have a will, Ontario law will determine who the beneficiaries of your estate are. The Succession Law Reform Act sets out who will inherit your assets if you do not make a will. While this does not mean that the government automatically takes your assets if you pass away (a common misconception) the beneficiaries the law chooses may not be the same as the ones you would choose. The Succession Law Reform Act does not recognize common law spouses as entitled beneficiaries, for example.
  • Another concern is that if you don’t have a will, any minors who inherit under the law will automatically receive their full inheritance at the age of 18. Many people feel their children may not be ready at 18 to manage financial assets without guidance. A will allows you to choose the age at which any beneficiary inherits, while your executor holds the assets in trust. A will also allows you to stagger a minor’s inheritance over time, if you choose, so a child can receive a portion of their inheritance at specified ages, rather than all at once.

Your Executor

A will allows you to appoint the person or people you would want to make all decisions and carry out all       administrative tasks related to your estate

  • One of the most important parts of a will is the clause that will appoint your Executor and Trustee. You can select the people you feel would be most responsible with your assets if you were to pass away. Without a will, an interested party (an adult beneficiary, spouse, or other family member) has to apply to the court to be appointed your Executor and Trustee before they will be able to administer your estate. Executors and Trustees who are named in a will do not have to post security (otherwise called a bond) with the court, but if there is no will, the court will place this requirement on any Executor and Trustee they appoint other than the legally married spouse of the deceased.
  • It is important to check with the person or people you want to name as your executor to make sure they are willing to act, since it is a large responsibility. If you pass away and your executor renounces their position, it could leave your estate without an executor

Your Minor Children

A will allows you to appoint guardians for your minor children

  • If you have children under the age of 18, you can name a guardian or guardians in your will who you would want to raise your children.
  • A guardianship appointment made in a will is recognized for 90 days after a parent has passed away. At that point your guardian would have to make an application to the court to be appointed permanent guardianship. Your will can be used as evidence by your guardian that they are the person (or people) that you selected to act.

Your Family

A will simplifies the estate administration process for your family and loved ones

  • A will sets out all of your wishes. It removes the “guesswork” for your family, friends and loved ones as to what you would have wanted. It clearly states who you would want to deal with the administration of your estate and gives them authority to act.

Do you need a will written, or wish to have your current will reviewed to make sure it is still applicable to your situation? Contact us!

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