What is a Will?
A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that communicates a person’s final wishes with respect to their possessions and their children or dependants. A person’s Last Will and Testament will outline what to do with possessions – whether they are being left to another person(s), a group or donated to charity, and what will happen to other things for which they are responsible, such as custody of dependants and financial interests.
A Will is written while a person is alive and carried out once they’ve passed away. In the Will, a still-living person is named as the Executor of the Estate and that person is responsible for administering the Estate. The Executor (or Executrix in the case of a woman) is usually supervised by the Probate Court to ensure that what is specified in the Will is carried out. Without a Will, your possessions are tied up in Probate and those who survive you cannot access bank accounts or investments until Probate Court has reached a decision.
Why keep my Will up to date?
Your Will should be kept up to date so that those you wish to be a beneficiary are listed. Too often we do not update our Will, and as a result, an ex-spouse may recieve your entire Estate while your children and loved ones are left out entirely.
A document called Codicil can be added to your existing Will. A Codicil is like an addendum or “addition” wherein you can keep the original Will as is, but change one or two small areas, such as change a beneficiary or change an amount or sum listed in your original Will.
A Will is your legal record of everything to do with your Estate. It is the only document that can determine how, where, and to whom your Estate is divided. It is one of the most important documents for you to have and these are just a few of the reasons why:
You can decide where your property goes, and who is a beneficiary
If you die without a Will (called dying “intestate”), your property will be divided using a formula contained in the Wills and Succession Act, and no consideration will be given to what your wishes were at the time of death. In this situation, how your property is divided can end up being completely different than what you intended.
You can choose who manages your Estate
Generally, if you die without a Will, your Estate is managed by your spouse or child. You may wish for your Estate affairs to be handled by your brother, however, without a Will, the Court will decide for you.
You can pass down family heirlooms, your coin collection, your antique automobile, etc
When you die without a Will, the Government may ultimately take over control of your assets and auction your prized possessions to liquidate them, then distribute the funds in accordance with the statutory formula. If you had wanted your nieces and nephews to have their education paid for or if you wanted your grandson to one day have your 1967 Ford Mustang, without a Will, these wishes would not be fulfilled.
You can dictate how your Estate is distributed
When someone reaches the age of majority they are considered a “qualified heir” and are eligable to receive their share right away. A Will can be used to determine how a recipient receives their share. For example, if you have an 18 year old son, your Estate can be paid out in parcels based on his age (i.e. 20% at age 18, 30% at age 21, and the remaining balance at age 25). Your Executor may also encroach on the monies being held in trust to ensure they are being used to pay for important matters. What is “important” differs in each case, but could be something such as buying your son a car at age 21 due to the fact that he is now attending a University in another city and needs transportation.