Here’s the short of it: It’s worth the time and spend the money on a legal will.
We operate a life insurance brokerage. However, we like to think we’re in the business of transforming lives. One of the biggest things we can do for our customers is recommend they have an updated will. Aside from assisting our clients in developing a sound financial strategy, we often will identify where they will need the help of other professionals such as lawyers and accountants.
We’re constantly surprised by the amount of individuals who do not have a legal or updated will. In fact, according to a poll taken by CIBC in 2012 nearly one-third of Baby Boomers, those between 45 and 64 years of age, do not have a will. As an insurance professionals we do much to protect our client’s estate so that it will be properly distributed and to prevent erosion from taxation.
I don’t own a yacht, so why do I need a will?
One of the biggest misconceptions is that you have to be extremely wealthy and have a plethora of assets to warrant drafting a will. This simply is not the case. You DO have an estate worth protecting if you have assets that include real estate, investments, vehicles, and/or personal effects. A will ensures that these assets are apportioned according to your wishes, and not the courts.
You have a will and you didn’t even know it!
That’s right, please remember that you will have a default will even if you haven’t drafted one yourself. When you die without a will, it’s called dying intestate. What this means is that you’ve left no instruction as to how your property will be distributed and by whom. You’ve worked your entire life building assets to be distributed amongst your heirs or causes, but because you didn’t take the time to properly plan you’ll lose total control of the transfer of that property.
Consider the Doe family
Meet John and Jane Doe. They have two daughters Jill, 20 in university, and Joanne, 12, and live in the province of Ontario. They have $1.4 million dollars in total assets all held in Jane’s name.
Total Assets $1,400,000
If Jane were to die, John would be entitled to what is known as the preferential share, $200,000, with the remaining $1,200,000 to be divided in thirds amongst John, Jill and Joanne.
Distribution of Assets after Jane’s Death
Now, remember Jill, although of age, is still in university and just inherited $400,000. How many 20 year olds are you aware of responsible enough to properly manage $400,000 in capital?
Moreover, John barely had enough to cover the cost of the home and may still have some outstanding indebtedness when Jill had passed. Some of this burden may have been lessened had John received Joanne’s portion which will be managed by a trustee until she is 18 years old.
It may have been reasonable for Jane to want the balance of the estate to go to John in order to provide for the loss of income. Instead, once 18, John will have to hope Joanne is prepared to manage a significantly large sum.
The estate may even be further eroded as probate fees and taxes have yet to be taken into account.
Okay, I know I need a will… what next?
Find a lawyer. The best thing you can do is speak to your current financial advisor. They should be able to recommend a lawyer or someone competent in your vicinity, at the reasonable fee schedule that you can afford that will be able to handle your estate planning in the most comprehensive way possible. Most importantly, you will be able to discuss what your needs and wishes are in terms of what you want to accomplish through your estate plan.
If you have any questions about this article or would like the assistance of one of our licensed professionals, please call us at 1.416.759.5453 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.