Over the years, the statistics haven’t changed much: the majority of people still do not have a Will and, for those who do, it may be outdated. When was the last time you read through your Will? Why not make your Will a priority in 2023. If you haven’t yet drafted a Will or need to make updates, in brief, here are some considerations:
Think carefully about how the Will is structured for your children. Estate lawyers suggest that many people often fail to properly plan for children. Sometimes, assets are passed in the Will to children at the age of majority without any conditions. Yet, transferring a significant amount of money at this age can lead to problems. Setting up a trust may be one way to help younger beneficiaries better manage funds. Others may neglect to appoint guardians or trustees over assets for minors. The terms and conditions for how funds are distributed to, and by, guardians can also be specified in the Will to help protect beneficiaries.
Remember which assets your Will distributes (and how). Don’t forget that a Will may not include all of the assets that you hold at death. Assets held in registered accounts (TFSAs, RRSPs, RRIFs)*, as well as certain pension plans or insurance policies, may have named beneficiaries which means these assets will pass outside of the estate. In most cases, joint assets will also pass outside of the estate. This is often overlooked when equalizing an estate between multiple beneficiaries. As well, don’t forget the potential effect of taxes on these accounts in reducing the final distribution of assets passing through a Will.
Pre-plan for cash flow issues. Will there be enough cash or liquidity to pay estate taxes, funeral costs or probate (in provinces where applicable)? There may be a significant tax liability for a family property or business, especially if the value has increased over time. Planning, using tools such as life insurance, can avoid future surprises.
Update as things change. Regular updates to Wills are often overlooked, such as due to changes in marital/family status, when a new beneficiary is identified, a change in jurisdiction occurs or when the status of assets changes. Administrative updates may also be needed, such as when a person named in the Will has a name change due to marriage or divorce. These updates can help to make future estate settlement easier.
Tell someone! Make sure to tell a trusted friend or loved one, as well as the estate’s executor/liquidator, of the location of your Will. While this may sound obvious, there have been instances in which estates were settled through the provincial courts because the Will could not be located.
*Not applicable in Quebec.
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