Why a Will?
Buying the farm. Kicking the bucket. Giving up the ghost. Given the number of colourful euphemisms we use to avoid straight talk about death, it’s no wonder people tend to put off writing their will. Many people assume they don’t need a will if their estate is small and their plans are straightforward. However, as my friend David* learned, that is often not the case.
Putting Off the Inevitable
Writing a will was one of those chores David planned to do “someday”. He just never made the time to see a lawyer in order to put his wishes in writing. He had lots of excuses – he was relatively young and healthy, he wasn’t married, he didn’t have kids, and he was not ready to think about dying. Besides, he felt his plans were simple: leave most of his stuff to his best friend and give his money to charity. However, not having a will meant that these simple wishes would not be fulfilled.
What Happens if You Die Without a Will?
When you die without a valid will in Canada, 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 the property is given to family members based on a rigid 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 at the potential consequences of dying without a will. He had no idea the provincial laws would result in distributions from his estate being so different than he intended. Suddenly, writing his will became a much higher priority.
Most Canadian Adults Do Not Have a Will
David is not alone in his procrastination. According to a recent Angus Reid poll, fewer than half of Canadian adults have a will, and many of those that do haven’t made sure theirs are up to date. How about you? Will your estate assets be distributed as you wish and in the most tax-efficient manner?
It is highly recommended that you seek professional legal guidance to ensure your estate plan is set up 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.
In Part Two, I will share how planning your charitable bequests can be both joyful and life-affirming.
Contributed by Peter Dryden
Gift Planning Consultant