You will probably get a Will at some point in your life. Most people do. But, whatever you do, don’t do it yourself (and don’t use a Will kit).
A lot of people seem to think that drafting a will is easy. It’s not.
Really, it doesn’t cost much money to get a lawyer or notary to draft a Will for you. Call around and get some prices. Most firms will charge comparable rates.
If you have a typical estate, without too many wrinkles, then a Will should cost the equivalent of three to four months of gas. That sounds like a lot; but, in the grand scheme, it’s not.
Wills drafting is not easy. It is actually very technical and complicated. Here is an example of a little known intricacy…
Not all property passes through a Will. For example, property that you hold “jointly” with another person typically passes “outside of the Will”. For instance, if you own a home with your spouse, your share of the house will pass to your spouse after you die.
Other things that pass outside of the Will are life insurance policies and RRSPs. Those benefits generally pass to whoever you indicate in those policies/plans.
There can be additional difficulties or wrinkles if you have young children, blended families, property outside of B.C., previous marriages, physically or mentally disabled family members, or a business.
If you fail to draft a proper Will, then your final wishes may not be followed and your family could spend a lot of their money (and a lot of your money) in court.
Now, what happens if you die without a Will? Well, that is called dying “intestate”. When that happens, your stuff does NOT automatically go to the government (contrary to popular belief). There are (basic) rules about where your money goes.
Generally, your assets will go to those people who are presumably closest to you, like your spouse and your children. If you don’t have a spouse or any children, then your assets may go to your parents, siblings, or other relatives (see Estate Administration Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 122). Here, at least your assets don’t automatically go to the government. But, with that said, it’s far better (particularly for your family) if you actually have a Will.
When writing a Will, you should do it before your health (particularly your mental health) starts to deteriorate. But, that isn’t the reality… People often wait to create a Will until their health is declining.
Sadly, though, a lawyer cannot prepare a Will for someone who doesn’t understand what they are doing. For instance, if the client does not understand what their estate is worth, then there are problems… For example, it would be a big “red flag” if a client said that their 5,000 square foot home in Kelowna or Vancouver is worth $10,000.00.
Final thought: if you get a Will, make sure that you spend the extra money to do it right (and don’t use a kit).
**The information contained in this column should not be treated by readers as legal advice and should not be relied on without detailed legal counsel being sought.