What is a Will Really For?
Most professionals will tell you that a Will is one of the things people overlook the most when crafting Estate Plans. Sure, most of us know that you have to have a Will – but many of us have not really thought about the purpose and meaning of a Will. Is it simply to pass on assets with a minimum of hassle and fuss? Do you have an operating business, and you’d like to ensure its continued viability after you are gone? Are you looking to make a significant impact on causes that you care deeply about? Or are you simply looking to ensure that as little of your money goes to Ottawa as possible?
It has been suggested that whatever you are looking to do, it makes sense to spend some time carefully considering what you actually want to accomplish (and why) before you show up at a lawyer’s office to write your Will. At SMARTWills we highly recommend that the process be collaborative, and the thinking not be done on your own. US research shows that as many as 70% of Estate Plans “fail” after passing to the next generation. By “failure” researchers mean that the Estate ends up reducing family assets unnecessarily, or heirs unexpectedly lose control of transferred assets, or the Estate is the cause of unnecessary legal hassles, delays, and family arguments.
The process of avoiding Estate failures is actually not that difficult. Some of the steps we endorse:
- Come in for a professional one on one to define the objectives and put a program in place,
- Have frank and honest discussions with spouses and heirs,
- Let us help you prepare Wills and Powers of Attorney for Property and Personal Care (Boy Scout motto – Be Prepared!).
- Clearly understand roles and responsibilities of Attorneys, Executors and Beneficiaries,
- Investigate tax liabilities and solutions – include your accountant, financial planner and your lawyer,
- Identify causes you care about,
- Consider family tensions and seek help for resolutions.
Some Estates are simple, a house, a bank account and maybe a car. The value of these assets was once modest, but not with the housing boom in Canada. But let’s be honest, most Estates are more complex. If you are like most middle-aged Canadians, chances are you have a home, an investment account, perhaps a vacation property, RRSP’s, TFSA’s, children and perhaps staff to consider. With most of our SMART Will’s clients falling into the latter description you will need help as there is too much that can go wrong. Wills require special attention and proper wording – without professional oversight, your Will can be legally challenged, and your wishes thwarted. If your Estate Plan is vague, imprecise, or ambiguous, it can leave your family bitterly divided, as children will argue about what mom and dad really meant. And if you fail to or neglect to minimize obvious taxes, other Estate costs and fees, your heirs could wind up paying thousands more in taxes than they have to. If you’ve got an operating business or foreign assets, or some other complicated arrangement in your Estate – well, all of these scenarios increase your risk of failure exponentially.
Yes, professional advice and guidance and Estate Planning advice will cost you a few thousand dollars but remember that old lesson Mom and Dad taught you about getting what you paid for. When it comes to Estate Planning, although a Cliché, it really is the truth.
So, a Will is really a financial planning tool that can save money, relationships and provide peace of mind.
Ministry of Attorney General Information on Estates, Wills and Trusts
Want more information?
This material is for general information and educational purposes only. Information is based on data gathered from what we believe are reliable sources. It is not guaranteed as to accuracy, does not purport to be complete and is not intended to be used as a primary basis for investment decisions.