Dead People and What to Do With their Stuff

Lately we’ve had a lot of inquiries from clients about preparing their wills. This seems to happen when the weather turns cold: much like squirrels gathering nuts for winter, people organize their affairs for when they pass away. However, many people, carrying through the above analogy, would starve in winter if they were squirrels, because they make inquiries and then they don’t follow through.

If you are reading this and believe I’m writing about you: I am.

So often we soft step around issues of death and use language that can make people feel like they can wait before drafting a will.

Reality check people: everyone is going to die. No one controls when they die. In the spirit of speaking frankly, what follows is a list of consequences and (to end on a positive note) a way to avoid those consequences.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DIE WITHOUT A WILL

When you die without a Will, your assets are distributed according to the Law of the Province of Ontario will: even if you don’t have a Will, the government has one for you.

• The Government’s Rules require that your beneficiaries make an application to the court to appoint a trustee to oversee the distribution of your estate – the average application costs about $3,000.

• If you own a house when you die without a Will and you don’t own that house as a Joint Tenant with your spouse (if you have one) Legal fees associated with transferring a residence when there is no Will or no right of survivorship are approximately $2,000 on top of the application costs.

• You don’t decide who will be the guardian of your children

• You don’t control the age your beneficiaries are before they receive assets.

• You don’t ensure there is funding for your children while they are in school.

You add a burden to those you leave behind– they cannot simply grieve your death, they have to deal with the mess you left behind.

WHAT OUR FIRM CAN DO TO HELP YOU CONTROL YOUR ESTATE

• We prepare simple Wills for $400 per person. This includes the Will, and powers of attorney for property and for personal care. You decide who takes care of your assets and makes decisions about your health care should you ever become incapacitated.

• We ensure your wishes are clearly stated and legally binding.

• Wills save your beneficiaries thousands of dollars in legal expenses.

• We can draft Wills to address specific circumstances; for example, Wills may include trusts provisions for special needs children that provide for their welfare, while ensuring their entitlement to provincial and federal funding.

• For business owners, Wills provide certainty as to the succession of their business. Wills can be assets specific, so as to avoid probate taxes where possible. A Will is part of any business plan – it ensures your business continues after you are gone.

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