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Burke-Robertson LLP
441 MacLaren Street
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Ottawa, ON K2P 2H3

Phone: 613-706-0020
Toll free: 1-800-419-5581
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Why Proper Wills Matter

When I am at parties or social gatherings I often start talking about the importance of Wills and Estate Planning (yes I am that person, although to be fair it usually comes up when other people ask me questions upon learning what I do for a living). Many people tell me when the subject comes up that they do not need a Will as they do not have any assets. Nothing can be farther from the truth on the other side of things when a person is deceased and they have not drafted a Will. It makes the administration of the Estate that much harder.
- Naila Parsons

Intestacy - Dying without a Will:

I'll give you an example: I had a friend whose wife passed away. Although they were married, because she didn't have a will, her husband (my friend) was unable to access her bank accounts until he had applied for and received a Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee without a Will (also known as probate) from the Court. Ontario does have legislation, the Succession Law Reform Act, confirming who receives the assets of your Estate if you don't have a Will, however the legislation does not require banking institutions to give you access to your loved ones' accounts if they did not execute a Will. There are also implications for children if you have not executed a Will but I will get into that in a later post. 

Why a lawyer is helpful:

So now you want to know, what are the reasons you should meet with a lawyer to prepare a Will and to discuss your Estate Planning, whether you think you have assets or not. Some of them include:
I. Your loved ones will know your wishes should something happen to you;
II. It makes the administration of your Estate much easier;
III. You can give specific gifts to specific people;
IV. You can confirm who you want to care for your children or specific assets should you pass away;
V. You can plan the administration of your estate instead of having someone else plan it for you.

For additional information, and access to some FAQs, please visit the Ministry of the Attorney General's Estates FAQ page.

Preparing for the Will

Now that you have decided you should have a Will prepared and you should speak to a lawyer about your Estate, here are some of the things you might want to consider, discuss or address with your lawyer:
I. Marital status. Have you been married previously? Do you currently have any matrimonial contracts or separation agreements that you are a party to?
II. Do you have children? Are they over the age of majority? Do you have dependants?
III. Your place of residence and the location of your assets;
IV. Are there people other than your immediate family that you want to consider in your will?
V. Who do you want to do the administration of your Estate? Who do you want to be the alternate?
VI. Assetsa. Do you own your property? Is it owned jointly or in your name alone?b. Do you have rental properties?c. Do you have RRSPs, Pensions or Life Insurance? Do they have beneficiaries assigned to them?d. Do you have stocks and bonds?e. Do you own a business or are you self employed?f. Do you have bank accounts? Are they held in your name alone or jointly?g. Do you own other assets?
VII. Do you have any liabilities that would have to be considered by your Estate?
VIII. Does anyone owe you money that you want to ensure your estate is able to collect?
IX. Do you want to gift specific items to specific people (specific bequests)?
X. Do you want to leave money to charities?
XI. Do you want to create a trust for your spouse or your children?
XII. Do you have specific funeral/burial wishes?

XIII. Who do you want to take care of your children should something happen to you and your spouse?

Should you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact myself or any of the other lawyers in my office who practice in the areas of Wills and Estates.
Wills aren't just for seniors. They are part of the spectrum that makes up Elder Law, but everyone should turn their mind to estates issues. This post and others on the topic of estates are adopted from my posts on Wills & Estates at our sister blog - ottawaestateslawyers.blogspot.ca.

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