Where There’s A Will (Part One)
David* did not have a will. He had not made a specific choice not to have one, he had just never gotten around to meeting with a lawyer and putting his wishes in writing. He had lots of excuses – he felt young, he didn’t want to think about dying, he was estranged from his family, he wasn’t married and didn’t have any kids. Writing his will was always one of those things David thought he would do ‘someday’. He had often thought that if the worst should happen, he would just leave his stuff to his best friend and his money to charity; he did not realize that not writing a will meant that could not happen.
What Happens if You Die Without A Will?
When you die without a valid will in Canada (called ‘dying intestate’), Provincial laws dictate the distribution of assets from your estate. These ‘one-size fits all’ regulations leave no room for customization. The law generally assumes familial bonds, and property is given to family members based on a specific hierarchy of inheritance. There is no provision for close friends or charities, and the intestate rules are not designed for optimal tax efficiency. Furthermore, not having a legal will can lead to delays and increased expenses to wrap up your estate.
David was shocked when one of my Abundance Canada colleagues explained to him the potential consequences of dying intestate. He had no idea the provincial laws would result in distributions from his estate being so different than he intended. Suddenly, making a will became a much higher priority.
Many Canadian Adults Do Not Have a Will
David’s initial attitude towards estate planning is not uncommon. In a recent Angus Reid poll, more than half of Canadian adults said they don’t have a last will and testament in place. Among those 55 or older that do have a will in place, 22% said that their will is not up to date.
It is highly recommended that you seek professional legal guidance to ensure your estate plan is setup to accomplish your intended goals and objectives. In addition, a donor-advised charitable foundation, like Abundance Canada, can help you think strategically about your philanthropic goals and giving to charity in your will.
It’s important to have an up-to-date will, but most Canadian adults don’t. In the first part of a three-part series, Peter Dryden looks at what that could mean for you.
In Part Two, I will look at the famous case of a Saskatchewan farmer who hastily threw together a will in his dying hours and the reality of leaving estate planning to the last minute.
Contributed by Peter Dryden
Gift Planning Consultant