Jeremy Wong, Estate Planning Lawyer, Westcoast Wills & Estates
A well-drafted will is an essential tool in any estate plan regardless of whether you believe your life scenario is “simple” or complex. This is because a will helps to mitigate many avoidable complications that can arise at death. The following is just a summary of some of the more common problems that can occur without a will:
- No guardians or trust funds for minor children: If parents die without appointing alternate guardians for their children, there is a possibility that their children will be placed in foster care while their family members or friends navigate a lengthy process to be appointed as a guardian by the court system. Perhaps even worse, your children would inherit everything you own at the age of 19.
- No legal authority to obtain financial information: A will gives you the opportunity to appoint a personal representative (i.e. your executor) to step into your shoes at death. As your representative, your executor is given the legal authority to speak with financial and government institutions to obtain needed information. With no will, many times a loved-one steps forward to deal with your affairs, but institutions will usually not talk to them in the absence of authorization from court to do so.
- Potential for an unwanted distribution of your assets: When a person in British Columbia dies without a will, the person is said to have died “intestate” and assets are then distributed to your next-of-kin as set out in the law. Dying without a will effectively prevents any other people that the deceased intended to include as beneficiaries – whether friends, more distant relatives or charities – from inheriting.
- Added administrative cost and time: In addition to the court authorization required to obtain financial information (as discussed above), additional court applications will be required to appoint an “administrator” for an estate of a person who has died without a will. These additional court applications amount to added legal fees and court processing time.
A well-drafted will is therefore a powerful tool that can be incredibly beneficial to your estate and loved ones. It is important however, to remember that a will is only one “end-point” within a person’s estate plan and that an arsenal of other tools exist that can be used in conjunction with your will to help you carry out your wishes in a dispute free, tax efficient manner.
BC’s Make-a-Will Week is April 7-13, 2019. MAWW is a Ministry of Justice campaign that brings awareness to the importance of creating and maintaining an up-to-date will, which ensures that the people, charities and organizations you care about most receive the benefit of your estate.
In conjunction with the Leave a Legacy Vancouver program of the Canadian Association of Gift Planners, we are sharing tips and info throughout the week to help our readers learn more about wills and their pertinence in ensuring that final wishes are understood and executed. Visit our blog all week for key posts related to MAWW and will preparation.