Your will has been prepared – now what?
Once you have prepared your will, you must remember to keep it updated to ensure it continues to reflect your intentions. You should review your will regularly, perhaps every few years or whenever there is a significant event in your life or the lives of your heirs, such as a marriage, divorce, birth, death, disability or new business. Keep in mind that in most provinces a marriage revokes an existing will unless the will specifically contemplates the marriage. A will should also be reviewed after a change to income tax, family or successor laws.
Generally, a will can be updated either through the use of a codicil (a testamentary document that makes one or more changes to a will) or a new will. In addition, a will is revocable – that is, the testator (the person making the will) always has the ability to amend or revoke the will.
Do common-law or same sex partners have the same rights as spouses?
Although common-law and same sex partners are treated in the same way as spouses for tax purposes, their rights under certain provincial estate laws may be limited, and this varies from province to province. If you are currently in a common-law or same sex relationship, it is very important to consult with a lawyer to become more familiar with the laws in the province where you reside. Without a valid will, a common-law or same sex partner could be left with very little. This could be particularly detrimental if there are minor children involved. A common-law or same sex partner may not have other assets to adequately provide for him or herself and the children, and it may be that they cannot easily access any money inherited by the children.
Protection for you and your family
A will is the foundation of an estate plan. The goal of having a properly drafted will is to ensure your assets will be distributed according to your wishes and that your loved ones will be properly provided for in a tax efficient manner. By creating a will, you can avoid unnecessary costs, delays and the undesirable results of intestacy, while gaining the ability to choose the executor of your estate and the guardian(s) of your children. When you consider that most wills can be prepared for a few hundred dollars, and also take into account the potential consequences of not having one, it is clear that everyone should have a will.
There may be certain situations in which a will is properly drafted, but a dependant who is left out or inadequately provided for can make a dependant’s relief claim. If successful, this may change the distribution of assets contemplated by the will.
Investors who want to:
• Ensure their assets are distributed according to their wishes
• Facilitate the administration of their estate and minimize taxes
• Select the executor(s) of their estate and guardian(s) of their children
• Set out specific instructions on certain matters such as their funeral arrangements
If this applies to you, then:
• If you don’t have a will, have one prepared by your lawyer
• If you do have a will, review it regularly to make sure it still reflects your wishes and amend or update it if need be