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What happens when people die without wills in place?

Despite many people claiming to be aware of the importance of proper estate planning, nearly half of Canadian adults report not having estate planning documents in place. Ontario adults who die without the appropriate wills and other important documents lined up will have their assets and liabilities disseminated according to provincial law. This lack of planning is known to cause tension within families, so it is a good idea for people to consider the implications of procrastinating on or neglecting this important task.

There are many reasons people may not have wills drawn up. Some may believe they do not need one until they are older, sicker or have more assets to disseminate. Others may be avoiding uncomfortable conversations with family or procrastinating on the personal effort it takes to consider one's own death. Whatever the reason, putting this task off can be a mistake in many cases.

When someone dies without a will, it is known as dying intestate. In these cases, the spouse typically gets most or all of the estate, followed by children and then, if none of these people are available, other relatives. If family members believe this is contrary to their late loved ones' wishes, they may have little recourse without written estate plans to fall back on.

There are other reasons wills are important besides designating who gets what. For example, wills clarify who is responsible for carrying out estate administration. They also give this person, known as the executor, all the details he or she needs to access all assets to allow for a seamless transition. Overall, wills can help lessen family conflict, give people more control over the fate of their assets, and facilitate a more straight-forward administration process. Ontario adults looking to draft their wills should contact a legal professional for support.

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Merovitz Potechin LLP
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Ottawa, ON K1Z 8R1

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