Four Reasons to Give Your Loved Ones the Gift of a Professionally Prepared Will
Though it bears little resemblance to the brightly-wrapped treasures you have given them over the years, a Will is one of the most important gifts you can give your loved ones. By expressing your final wishes in the form of a Will, you will be giving your family a clear plan to follow during a very difficult time, and also helping them to avoid many unnecessary stresses or conflicts around issues such as inheritance, choice of an executor, guardianship of children, and funeral arrangements.
1) Writing a Will puts you in control of dividing up your estate
In the absence of a Will, your estate is divided according to the rules of intestacy, which vary from one province to another. In Ontario, these rules are directly connected to your marital status and family structure, and are, of necessity, fairly arbitrary and impersonal. A professionally prepared Will allows you to divide your estate any way you wish, be it among your family, close friends, and charitable or other organizations that are important to you. A Will is also an important opportunity to provide your guidance on potentially contentious issues such as naming a successor in the family business or special assets such as a family cottage or heirlooms.
2) Writing a Will lets you choose who will manage your affairs
In writing a Will, you are able to appoint someone you trust to ‘execute’ your final wishes, which is likely to include significant obligations such as selling property, paying off taxes, and distributing assets. When an executor is not named, the court will appoint an administrator, with input from your family. This can be time-consuming and stressful, particularly if your survivors are unable to agree on the right person. Appointing an executor eliminates this potential conflict and also allows the process to move forward more quickly.
3) Writing a Will lets you name a legal guardian for your children
Writing a Will is also a critical opportunity to name a legal guardian for your young children. In Ontario, your choice of guardian will remain in effect for 90 days following your death, and after this period, it is up to the court to decide. Attaching a letter explaining why your choice is in the child’s best interests and how this person meets the legal criteria the judge will need to consider is very likely to influence his or her decision. On the other hand, the absence of a Will can lead to some very painful family conflicts over custody, or a choice of guardian that you would not have chosen.
4) Writing a Will lightens the burden of funeral arrangements
The details of arranging a funeral can be overwhelming for a grieving family. Providing clear directions in your Will can ease this particular stress for them, and allow them to feel confident that they are carrying out your wishes. All of these matters can be difficult to contemplate, and for this reason, many people put off writing a Will. However, while it does eventually become too late to give your family this gift, it is never too early.