Why Have a Formal Will?
A formal Will is a legally enforceable document signed by you in front of 2 witnesses (not including a spouse or other beneficiary), that describes your wishes about how your estate should be administered and distributed. It comes into effect upon your death. A Will allows you to specify and take care of your designated beneficiaries (spouse, children, other family & friends, charitable organizations, etc.). You can name the executors of your estate and guardians for your minor children. Decide the age at which your children receive their share and make special provisions for disabled beneficiaries. When it comes to preparing your Will there is no “one size fits all”. Every client’s situation is unique and your Will should be custom drafted to reflect your wishes. Common complicating factors in determining how to distribute assets are instances where there are children from previous marriages, acrimonious family relationships, disabled dependents, and complex financial and business assets. Proper and thorough estate planning can alleviate the risk of expensive lawsuits against your estate.
Consequences of Not Having a Formal Legal Will and Testament
If you die without a Will (referred to as dying intestate), then your estate will be distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules in the province in which you reside. The beneficiaries of your estate will be determined by the government’s interpretation of family ties vs your own preferences. These may not be the people you want to benefit.
This can have several negative repercussions for your loved ones. Legal fees and taxes can consume a significant portion of the estate assets; as well, if there are surviving spouses and children from different marriages, close friends or favourite charities you might have liked to recognize (but didn’t specify in a Will), it may mean that your assets are not distributed in the way you would have wished. For example, a common-law spouse is not recognized under the intestacy rules and may have to bring a claim against the estate. Holographic Wills (a Will prepared in your handwriting with no witnesses) are recognized in Ontario but are subject to challenge and misinterpretation.
Pre-printed Will kits or computer programs may not comprehensively address your unique family dynamics and financial situation. All of these undesirable Will options may result in much more significant legal fees and other expenses to the estate which far exceed the cost of having a professional formal Will prepared in the first place.
Legal Formal Will Preparation Services
Quinn Estate Law is well versed in preparation of Wills that address important, complex family and business relationships, as well as minor and disabled beneficiaries. We understand that if potentially contentious issues are not identified and addressed properly during the process of creating a Will, the result can be hurt feelings and damaged family or business relationships. We can offer guidance and advice on the distribution of assets where there are children from previous marriages, acrimonious family relationships, and disabled dependents.
We’ll also help you to ensure your family and other beneficiaries are not burdened with avoidable legal fees and taxes after your death. Knowing your wishes have been properly captured and you’ve secured the financial future of your loved ones is the most important reason to create a formal Will.