Estate Planning

Where there is a will there is a way

Thy will be done

One of the most frequent problems we come across with clients in our financial planning practice, is how many of them have out-dated wills.

We spend so much time accumulating assets for our families and spend so little time contemplating how these assets will be distributed when we are gone. If you’ve been thinking that it’s not a problem to die without a will – think again.

This “little” oversight can cost thousands of dollars in legal bills, bitter family disputes over our estates, as well as legal battles between siblings and/or their spouses over something that they should not be fighting over. All of this would be avoided if a proper will had been prepared.

In fact, did you know that if you die without a will, you are said to die “intestate” There are more than a few problems with this including higher estate costs, inflexibility and lengthy delays in settlement of the estate?

Would you want to let the government decide on how your estate will be settled and then let higher costs be charged to have this done? This is exactly what happens if you die without a will.

Friends in the legal community smile when they tell me about another couple who called in a panic to update or draft a will. The lawyer asks the client why the sudden urgency and are usually told that they are going on a trip and wanted to ensure that their affairs are in order. What if they were not going on a trip anytime soon – would it not be just as important to update their wills?

Even if you have a will it is very possible that your will is going to change over time. Keep in mind that you can change your existing will or create an entirely new will as often as you’d like. So many things can change in a person’s life that might affect their will. You should make it a habit to review your will often especially if one of the following events have taken place:

  • your marital status has changed
  • the marital status of beneficiaries or others named in your will has changed
  • beneficiaries, an executor, trustee, or guardian has died
  • there’s been a birth in the family of someone whom you would wish to include in your will
  • the competence of an executor, beneficiary, or trustee has changed
  • you have moved to a new jurisdiction
  • your executor, trustee, or beneficiaries have moved to a new jurisdiction
  • you have acquired real estate in another jurisdiction
  • your net worth has changed significantly
  • you have new dependants
  • you have changed your mind as to who gets what
  • you have changed your life insurance coverage
  • tax laws have changed

If any of these things have changed and you feel the impact of the change on what you will say, then your will needs to be changed. We cannot stress enough the importance of having a lawyer make those changes. You may run the risk of making certain provisions, if not the entire will, invalid if you do it yourself. Saving money is always prudent, but paying to have a will correctly be drafted is one of the wisest investments you will make!

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