A well-crafted estate plan ensures your health and property are well managed while you are alive and distributed according to your wishes after your death. Having a properly executed will is one important part of any estate plan.
In Ontario, if you die without a will, your assets will be distributed according to the Succession Law Reform Act (SLRA). This distribution may not be what you want. The SLRA puts spouses and children first and overlooks people who may be important to you: your non-spouse partner, friends, neighbors, schools, and charities. Even if the provisions of the SLRA exactly match your wishes, having a will simplifies the burden on your loved ones — there will be fewer administrative duties for them to deal with while they are grieving. Your family and loved ones will appreciate the time you invested making a will and simplifying the administration of your estate.
Among other things, your will may ensure:
- A trusted person (or company) is appointed to administer your estate, which may lift this burden off your loved ones
- Your property goes to the people and charities you want
- Guardians are appointed for your children (this can only be done in your will)
- Your children are supported at the time of your death and for years afterwards
- Your funeral expenses and debts are paid
- Debts owed to you are forgiven (if that’s your wish)
- Your furry and feathered kids (pets) are taken care of
- Your adult dependents continue to receive the government benefits they are entitled to
- Conflict is minimized — your loved ones will not need to guess about what you would have wanted (minimizing conflict is particularly important for people who have been married more than once, have children with different partners, and who have complicated or estranged family relationships)
At Scharf Estate Law we think of your will as a document which reflects your life’s aspirations and makes them clear to those you care about: your spouse or partner, your children, your siblings, your close friends and other people and organizations who hold a special place in your heart.
If you think of your will as reflecting your life’s aspirations (as opposed to a legal document which simply lays out who gets what) this may be a catalyst for you to have important discussions with the people you are closest to. You want those who matter most in your life to clearly understand your wishes for the future, both your future and theirs.
Other resources you may find useful:
This information is not a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed lawyer in your jurisdiction, wherever that may be.