According to a survey released by Lawyers' Professional Indemnity Co. (LawPRO), the majority of Canadian adults (56%) do not have a signed will. According to the survey, 29% of Canadian adults do not have a will because they either do not know how to get started or believe they cannot afford one. Not having a will is more problematic than you think. This “little” oversight can cost thousands of dollars in legal bills, bitter family disputes, as well as legal battles between siblings and/or their spouses. All of this would be avoided with the drafting of a proper will.
Related article: Basics of will planning
What happens if your do not have a will?
When you die without a will, you are said to die “intestate”. Essentially, this means that the Intestate Succession Act governs your estate which can cause problems, frustrations, delays, and add unnecessary costs. Dying intestate means that:
- You can’t choose who your beneficiaries will be;
- You can’t choose who will administer your estate;
- You can’t plan your estate to minimize taxes;
- You can’t choose a guardian for your children.
Dying without a will means letting the government decide on how your estate will be settled and being charged to have this done?
Related Article: 12 consequences of dying without a will
Young people need a will the most
The LawPRO study found 88% of Canadians between the ages of 27 and 34 do not have a will. The most common reason for not having a will at this age is because they believe they are too young (21%).
However, people in this age group probably need a will the most because they experience significant life milestones like having children and buying a home.
Being a father of four young buys, I was motivated a while back to update my will mostly because I wanted to have a say as to who would become the guardians of my kids.
When children are still dependent, they are not capable to managing money so a will also allows me to select a trustee to handle money for my kids. I did not want the public trustee to be the default which is what happens with no will.
If you cannot afford to pay a lawyer to write a will, you can write your own will or buy one of those will kits for $9.95 but before you do, proceed with a little caution. Handwritten wills and do it yourself will kits can lead to big problems if they are not done properly.
Related article: Should you write your own will?
In my experience, it is much better to invest in a lawyer and if you think you can’t afford it, then ask for it for a birthday gift or Chistmas gift over a new iPad, Big screen TV, set of golf clubs. Ok, it may not be as fun but it’s definitely prudent.
Review your will
If you have a will but it has not been reviewed for quite some time, remember that a will needs to be updates with changing circumstances.
According to the survey, Canadians tend to have a will made when they experience one of life's major milestones. Having a child (30%), and experiencing a change in marital status (20%), were the most common events that prompted Canadian adults to get a will. Only 13% of Canadians signed a will when they purchased a home or condo. These changing circumstances are also great triggers to review existing wills.
Related article: How often should you review your will?
And don’t forget the power of attorney
Lastly, the LawPRO study suggests that 71% of Canadian adults do not have a signed power of attorney. When you are getting your will done, you might as well get all three legal estate planning documents completed
- Power of Attorney
- Personal Directives
Related article: What is a power of attorney?