There are many common misconceptions about wills and estate planning. Do you really need a will? What are the benefits of having one? Even if you have ‘make a will’ on your to-do list, there’s a good chance that you’ve been putting it off!
If that sounds like you, you’re not alone! Over 57% of Canadians don’t have an up-to-date will and a greater percentage have wills that aren’t up-to-date. Regardless of why you’ve fallen into that percentage, here are some very important reasons why making a will should be a priority.
1. Have important conversations about your wishes
Discussions about end-of-life wishes are some of the most important conversations that we currently aren’t having. This can be for many reasons. Many people believe that their families are aware of their wishes or they simply find the conversation too difficult to have. However, over two-thirds (66%) of Canadians don’t know the end-of-life wishes of their spouse or any other loved ones.
2. Decide who will be in charge of closing your estate
When you make your will, you have the opportunity to choose an executor. This person will be in charge of closing your estate when you pass away. It’s important to choose the right person for this task since it is a large responsibility. Not only should it be someone you trust to carry out your wishes, but it needs to be someone who has the time, energy, and organizational skills to take on the role.
If you don’t have a will, or don’t appoint an executor, the courts will appoint someone for you – it’s possible that it wouldn’t be the person you would have chosen yourself.
3. Choose how your belongings will be distributed
Most people understand that a will helps distribute the assets that you own. As a result, it’s a common myth that if you aren’t rich, you don’t need a will. This isn’t true at all! While yes, you can choose how to divide your estate, your estate includes anything from assets of monetary value (such as property, investments, vehicles) to items of sentimental value (such as jewelry, arts, and memorabilia).
In your will, you can gift specific parts of your estate, such as a lump-sum dollar amount or even specific items. Alternatively, you can allocate the remainder (which is everything left after specific gifts have been distributed).
Also, having a will helps loved ones navigate who gets what and minimizes the chances of arguments that may arise when wishes aren’t clear. Similar to an executor, if you don’t have a will, your estate will be distributed based on provincial legislation. This means that your belongings may not end up in the hands of the people you would have chosen.
4. Make sure your important relationships are recognized
If you die without a will (known as dying “intestate”), your estate will be distributed based on provincial legislation. This may impact important relationships in your life that are not recognized by these laws. Common-law partners and other dependents you wish to provide for, are vulnerable if you die without a will.
5. Have an emergency plan in place for your minor children and dependents
The thought of a child or children being left without their parents is something no one enjoys thinking about. As a result, many people put off designating a guardian for their minor children. While choosing a guardian for your children is not an easy decision, avoiding it is not a good solution.
By naming a guardian in your will, you tell your family and the courts who you would like to provide care and support for your children. It’s important to put this decision in writing and avoid any issues that may occur because there was no plan put in place.
6. Also Put a plan in place for your pets
We love our furry friends, so it’s just as important that we make plans for them as well. You can assign a guardian to care for your pet when you are no longer around and also allocate funds to support their needs.
As with all other roles in your will, it’s important to speak with the person you have chosen to make sure they are comfortable taking on the responsibility.
7. Protect your financial and personal decisions
Making a will helps protect your loved ones in the event of your unexpected death, but it’s equally as important to protect yourself in the event of an accident or personal medical emergency. While separate from a will, another important part of estate planning is choosing a power of attorney. Your power of attorney helps to take care of you while you’re alive and your will helps to take care of your loved ones after you pass away.
Many people choose to make their power of attorney documents at the same time as their will. Power of attorney documents (also known as an advance directive or representation agreement in some provinces) are used to designate someone to make decisions about your property, finances, personal life, and medical care in the event that you become incapacitated. This can include activities such as maintaining your property, paying your bills, and making decisions related to your healthcare. You can also outline your wishes within your power of attorney documents.
8. Minimize future stress and burden for loved ones
Having a will in place helps document your wishes for your family and loved ones. Dealing with death and grief can be very emotional, and having a will can help guide your family through a difficult time. You can think of your will as a blueprint for your family after you pass away.
Not only does your estate plan protect your loved ones, but it also reduces the burden on your family of having to guess what your wishes would have been.
9. Give the gift of a legacy
Your will is a great place to ensure your legacy lives on even after you have passed away. You can include a charitable gift or donation to an organization that you care about in your will. You can even leave a percentage of your estate if you prefer. Legacy giving is one of the best ways to make a lasting impact on causes that you care about.
10. You deserve peace of mind.
Life is full of unexpected twists and turns. Knowing you have a will in place can help bring some extra peace of mind knowing that your family is protected. Similar to how we purchase insurance to protect our homes and vehicles against the unexpected, your estate plan ensures that there is a plan in place for you and your family in the event of an emergency.
Fortunately, making a will is easier than you think! Online platforms like Willful can help you create your will online in as little as 20 minutes, from the comfort of your home. Willful’s plans also include free unlimited updates, so you know that your estate plan can always reflect your current wishes.
The content on this site is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as providing legal or insurance advice.