Many people ask, “Do I need a will?” The answer is yes – if you are over the age of 18, you should have a will. Regardless of how much money you have or whether you own property, there are very important benefits to having a will, and significant legal and practical consequences if you die without a will. In this post, the Northwest Territories estate planning lawyers at our firm will explain why you should make a will. If you have questions about how estate planning can benefit your and your loved ones or want to get started on preparing your will, please contact our Yellowknife lawyers today.
WHY SHOULD I MAKE A WILL?
A will is a legal document that declares what you want done with your property and personal belongings at the time of your death. Other important considerations such as the care of your children who are minors at the time of your death can be dealt with in your will. In your will, you get to decide:
Who you trust to be in charge of handling your estate (known as an “executor”);
Who you want to inherit from your estate (known as a “beneficiary”); and
Who you wish to care for your minor children (known as a “guardian”).
If you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to Northwest Territories’ intestacy rules and the courts will make decisions about your minor children. This creates stress, uncertainty, and expense for your loved ones during their time of grief. It may also lead to conflict both within your family and between your heirs and third parties such as the bank or other creditors.
IMPORTANT BENEFITS OF WILLS AND ESTATE PLANNING
In addition to the major benefits of having your intentions known and avoiding intestacy, there are many other important benefits to having a will. For example, here are some of the matters that can be addressed in a properly drafted will:
Funeral and burial preferences.
Specific gifts (e.g., a family heirloom or item of sentimental value), cash legacies, and charitable donations.
Including beneficiaries who may not otherwise inherit if you die without a will (for example, a common-law spouse, a stepchild, a cousin, a friend).
Excluding (or “disinheriting”) a person who would otherwise inherit if you died without a will.
Minimizing estate taxes and the length and cost of the probate process.
In relation to the last point, the versatility and power of using trusts in a will cannot be overstated. For example, at what age do you want your children or other beneficiaries to receive an inheritance: when they reach the age of majority, or at a later point in life? Is there a friend or relative who you want to inherit but who is not good at handling money? Are any of your beneficiaries disabled? A wills and estate planning lawyer can help you set up a trust in any of these situations to ensure that the inheritance is managed by someone you trust on behalf of the beneficiary.
SIGNIFICANT CONSEQUENCES OF NOT HAVING A WILL
If you do not have a will, you do not get to make important decisions and your family and loved ones are left with uncertainty about your wishes. Dying without a will leads to delay and causes extra expense, and in many cases can result in estate litigation. Important decisions about who will administer your estate, who will inherit and in what amount, and who will become the legal guardian of your minor children will be determined by Northwest Territories’ intestate succession laws, the courts, and the government. Certain property or belongings that you may have wanted to be kept in your family may be sold, relatives that you dislike may inherit, and the government will take a portion of your estate as its fee if the Public Guardian and Trustee is involved in the care of your minor children or the administration of your children’s share of your estate.
DYING WITHOUT A VALID WILL
It is important to note that if you have a will, but it is found to be invalid for any number of reasons, the end result will be that you are considered to have died without a will. Be extremely cautious when using pre-printed wills or wills kits, which are not likely customized to ensure you meet the requirements of a valid will in the Northwest Territories. There are very technical rules for executing a valid will and there are inheritance laws that, if not followed, may lead to wills challenges after your death. It is always the best course of action to have your will prepared by a qualified lawyer who knows the laws of inheritance and the requirements for a valid will.
GET TRUSTED WILLS AND ESTATE PLANNING ADVICE FROM OUR YELLOWKNIFE LAWYERS
Whether your estate is large or small, there are good reasons to have a will and significant consequences for your loved ones if you do not. At Dragon Toner Law Office, we are committed to making the wills and estate planning process as stress-free as possible, so that you will have the peace of mind of knowing that your intentions are known and that everything is taken care of for your loved ones. Our trusted Yellowknife lawyers can help you prepare and execute a valid, enforceable will, and also assist you by preparing a Power of Attorney and a Personal Directive to provide instructions to permit a trusted person to act on your behalf in the event that you lose capacity to make financial, personal, and/or medical decisions during your life. If you would like more information about our wills and estate planning services, please contact us at 867-873-6000 or toll-free at 1-888-558-0668. You may also visit our offices at 5016-50th Avenue, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. Estate planning is simpler than you think – get started by contacting us today.