Merovitz Potechin LLP
300-1565 Carling Avenue
Ottawa, ON K1Z 8R1
There are numerous important reasons to prepare a last will and testament (“Will”). Namely, having a Will ensures that your wishes are followed, allows you to provide for your loved ones even after your death, and preserves your legacy. Even if you don’t believe that your assets are of substantial value, preparing a Will allows you the opportunity to arrange your affairs in advance, to meet your wishes and the needs of your loved ones. In contrast, if you die without a will in Ontario (commonly referred to as dying “intestate”) your estate is automatically distributed in accordance with Part II of the Succession Law Reform Act, which may not be what you intended, and may not necessarily be in the best interests of your loved ones.
At Merovitz Potechin LLP, our Wills and Estates Group has the expertise to assist you and to guide you through the process of preparing your Will to avoid any uncertainty and to ensure that your interests are protected upon your death.
Although a non-exhaustive list, please find below the Top 10 Reasons to Make a Will:
You choose who will act as your estate trustee (commonly referred to as your “executor”). Your estate trustee will be responsible for the administration of your estate. You can also name an alternate estate trustee who will act if the first named estate trustee is unwilling or unable to act.
You decide how your estate will be distributed, including: who will benefit from your estate, how much each beneficiary will receive, and how distributions are to be made. This can include the distribution of your personal belongings, specific bequests of property or cash to named individuals, and the distribution of the residue of your estate (i.e. once all debts and taxes owing are paid by your estate).
You decide who will have decision-making responsibility (i.e. care and custody) over your minor children in the event of your death. The appointment of a guardian in a Will is temporary and the person(s) named in your Will must apply to the Court for permanent guardianship within a period of 90 days following your death. In making its decision, the Court will consider the child’s best interests and in doing so will heavily rely on the wishes expressed in your Will.
You decide at which age your children (or grandchildren, as the case may be) will receive their share of your estate. Depending on various factors such as age, maturity and/or size of the estate, it may be appropriate to leave funds to beneficiaries in trust to be held by your estate trustees for your beneficiaries’ benefit; this ensures funds will be used to support your beneficiaries and their important needs, such as: health, housing, safety and education. By having a Will, distributions can be tailored to suit the needs of your beneficiaries, and delayed until the beneficiary attains a certain age, or upon the happening of a specific event.
You can include a plan to support a disabled child and minimize the risk the child will lose his or her provincial disability benefits.
You can significantly minimize the Estate Administration Tax payable by your estate, and even avoid the need for your estate trustee to apply for a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee (commonly referred to as “probate”).
When a beneficiary who received a gift from your estate during their marriage later separates from their “spouse” (as defined in the Family Law Act), the increase in the value of the gift during the marriage is typically subject to an equalization payment made under the Family Law Act. By having a Will, you can assist the beneficiary in safeguarding their gifts from such equalization payment.
The Trustees Act sets out a list of default powers that are given to your estate trustee, namely, the power to sell, to lease, to insure, to employ agents, to invest, among others. By having a Will, you can decide whether to restrict the scope of some of the statutory powers, to add some additional powers, or to do both.
Digital assets are becoming more and more prominent in our day-to-day lives. By having a Will, you can allow or restrict your estate trustee’s ability to handle your digitals assets. Similarly, some digital assets may have a significant and ever-increasing monetary value, and therefore important considerations can be made in your Will as to the distribution of digital assets to beneficiaries.
Losing a loved one is an often difficult and emotional process. The last thing any of your loved ones wants to do is to worry about the legal intricacies involving what will happen to your estate, who will be administering your estate, who will be a beneficiary under your estate, who will take care of your minor children, and so forth. By having a Will, you can add some certainty to such of the items listed above, which can then alleviate some of the difficulties that your loved ones may otherwise face.
Planning for the future can be a difficult and daunting task, but it is best way to protect your legacy and your loved ones. Our Wills and Estates Group can help you learn how your choices will impact the future and can assist you in creating an estate plan perfectly suited to meet your needs. For more information, please visit our Wills and Estates Group page and schedule an initial consultation with one of our Wills and Estates lawyers.