Sometimes the universe presents me with topics to write on. This was one of those weeks. Over the past week, I have spoken to 3 or 4 different people separately about the importance of doing a Last Will and Testament. During one conversation, a colleague and I pondered the reasons why so many people avoid doing their wills. My theory is people simply do not want to think about death and thinking about a will means they must think about death. It’s not a pleasant topic, I admit. But the fact of the matter is that we are all going to die! Yes, that is a little dramatic, but it is true. The old adage is that the only things that are certain in this life are: death and taxes. With that said, here are seven reasons why you should think about doing a will, no matter what your age:
7. Peace of mind: If you do your will now, you will be providing yourself with peace of mind, just by knowing that you have something written down in case you pass away. There are few things more tragic than seeing close family members upset after the loss of a loved one. Add to that the stresses of trying to figure out what documents are needed, funeral arrangements, what to do with property, etc. Having a will does not solve all of these problems, but it is the foundation for your total estate planning package and will alleviate some unnecessary stresses on your family.
6. Costs: Similar to my comments in a previous article about why a Power of Attorney is important, doing a will now can save costs to you and your estate. If you pass away without a will, you are what’s called “intestate” and a statute called the Devolution of Estates Act (in New Brunswick) kicks in to guide the process your family must go through to have someone appointed to represent your estate (pay your bills, sell your property, gift certain properties to others). This process can be more costly in the long run than probating (proving) a will.
5. Guardianship for you children: You could include a provision in your will to appoint a guardian or guardians for your children should something happen to you. Only you know your children and who you trust to watch over them the most. A will is an effective way of expressing your wishes for your children as well.
4. Protecting your business: Through the process of drafting a will, people often begin thinking about a succession planning for their business. This might include transitioning your business to a family member. Also, your lawyer and accountant can assist you in thinking about estate freezes and/or family trusts, which can maximize the tax potential of your transition.
3. Complexity: People seem to build up the process of making a will in their minds into something greater than it really is. In most cases, making a will is not a complex process. You will have to attend your lawyer’s office one or two times (maybe more depending on complexity) and discuss your property, your family and your wishes. Then you will attend your lawyer’s office to sign your will. It is not that difficult, but I recently heard someone say that when she told her workmates that she was going to a lawyer’s office to make a will, one workmate asked: “oh, why, what is wrong with you?”
2. Family Fighting : We have all heard or experienced horror story scenarios with family members fighting over their parent’s properties. While a will cannot guarantee that your family will not be fighting over your property or money, it will certainly reduce the possibility of disagreements. It is more difficult for family members to contest your intentions when they are written clearly in “black and white” in your will.
1. Control: If you are like me, there are likely very few items that are important enough that they should be passed on to specific people. However, if something ever happens to me, I have some sentimental items that I would like certain people to have. It is difficult to ensure that your few important items are distributed as you wish without a will. A will is the best way to ensure that you maintain control over what little you have on this earth.