Intestacy is dying without a Last Will and Testament. Have you considered what would happen if you died intestate? What would happen to your estate?

Intestacy usually operates as follows (this varies by province or territory):

  • Everything passes on to the spouse and/or children
  • If the deceased had no children, everything passes on to the parents
  • In the event the parents have passed away, everything passes on to the siblings of the deceased
  • In the event no one is left, the government may acquire the remaining assets and estate

You can see where this issue grows complex especially if you have a common-in-law spouse, step parents, siblings and so on. How will a person’s estate and assets be divided up by the courts if you do not have a Will? Even if you believe that your estate and assets are too small to be worth something, the chances are that you at least own some property such as a house, car or have some money in the bank.

Putting a Will in place ensures that your assets and estate go to the people you would prefer.  With a Will you can also make charitable donations and leave things to close friends.  Moreover, what about the pressing issue of a Guardian? Who will raise and look after your children if you are not there?  Importantly, a Will allows you to name the precise people you would trust with being Guardians for your children.

If you still assume everything is going to be fine after you die intestate, the courts still have to step in and administer where all of your stuff goes. That costs money, which will come out of what is left of your estate.   Dealing with an estate where there is no Will is more expensive in terms of legal costs, more complicated, and time-consuming.  

Don’t let your Estate get caught up in expensive, complicated, and lengthy court hearings by not completing your Last Will and Testament.   

If you have a Last Will and Testament (or are thinking about drafting one), then you may be wondering when and how you would go about updating it. People generally think about getting a Will during the biggest changes of their lives. Typically, one would assume that the very first Last Will and Testament a person creates is going to need updates down the road as their life changes. People marry, divorce, have multiple children, etc. and all of those type of changes in a person’s life need to be reflected in a Last Will and Testament. How does one update their Will when necessary?

There are two options to update your Will. One way is to create an entirely brand new Last Will and Testament. The second option is to create a Codicil (an amendment) to your Last Will and Testament. A Codicil would have to be dated, signed and attached to the Will so your Executor knows when the Codicil was created. A Codicil would have to fit seamlessly with the other sections of your Will and avoid any conflicting language. Although some may view a Codicil to be satisfactory for small changes (i.e. changing the amount of money you want to give to a specific person or to a charity), it is generally much better to create a new Last Will and Testament so there is absolutely no confusion or conflict between a Will and a Codicil. This is particularly true if you wish to make multiple changes to your Will.

The good news is that through the use of online Will software, you can create a new Will with the changes you want to it without having to pay for a brand-new Will through a lawyer. Bottom line: Avoid confusion by editing your Will through Will software.

You know about the importance of a Legal Will. You put off thinking about completing your Will, believing that it is something you need to think about later. Or you may also put off drafting a Last Will and Testament because it is too complex and you just do not have the time (or do not want) to think about it.

A simple explanation of a Last Will and Testament is that it is a legal document directing where all of your assets (gifts, charitable donations, etc.) go when you die. Your assets could go to specific individuals or to various organizations, such as charities. While this is a necessary and important document to have, it is estimated that at least 50% of adults do not have one. There are a number of reasons as to why people may not have one, such as: the time it takes to see a lawyer, the cost of seeing a lawyer, or just procrastination. Money and time are often huge factors in putting off a Last Will and Testament. There are, however, inexpensive alternatives to seeing a lawyer. These options include: a) an online Will, b) a holographic Will, or c) a Will kit.

We have previously written about the advantages of creating an online Legal Will; an online Legal Will provides you with the advantage of creating a document through Will software, which is a cheaper and less time consuming alternative to seeing a lawyer. The option to use online Wills are recommended if you do not have a complex estate. It is a preferable method to using a holographic, hand-written Will. An online Will uses technology that guides you through the process the process of creating a Will and reminds you of the important things to include in your Will. If you draw up a hand-written Last Will and Testament, chances are that you will be leaving out many legal issues that need to be addressed.

What is the difference between an Online Will and a Will kit?


So you might ask yourself, what is the difference between an online Will and option c, a Will kit? A Will kit is just that, it is usually a “kit” that you can purchase through a store, and it consists of papers to guide you through the process of creating a Last Will and Testament. The difficulty is that, unlike using online Wills or Will software, a Will kit may not be up to date and additionally, it does not have the benefit of technology that guides you through the process.

It is always best to have a guide through the process of creating a Will. 

online will

You’re most likely familiar with the basics of what a Last Will and Testament is: it is a legal document which ensures that your loved ones are taken care of if anything happens to you.  An online Will (sometimes also known as an online will form) eliminates the need for a lawyer by providing you with the guidance and knowledge you require to complete your Will from your home.

Making a Will online allows you to create your Will by using a will form which guides you through a series of questions and produces your Will for you.  You then print out your Will and follow proper steps regarding witnessing, signing and storage.

One of the great things about online Wills is that you can usually log back in and change your Will easily if your circumstances change.  For example, if you want to change your appointed Executor you can simply log back in to your online Will account, change your Executor, and print out a new Will for signing.  This is much more cost-effective, faster, and efficient than going back to see a lawyer to make a change to your Will.

If you feel that you can answer some straightforward questions and do not require the guidance of a lawyer, then an online Will would work for you. A Will created online carries the same weight as a document created by a lawyer, provided that it follows the same basic required steps (for example, being witnessed and signed by independent witnesses). There is no legal requirement that a lawyer witness or write up your Will.

An online Will would work for you if your estate is fairly straightforward and you do not have complex issues to deal with (e.g. property scattered in several jurisdictions, a multi-million dollar estate, etc.) that may be better dealt with through a lawyer rather than through an online Will form. When you create and print out your online Will, you simply sign off with some independent witnesses and you have completed your Legal Will.

 

 

last will and testament

You probably are no doubt aware of the term “Last Will and Testament.” Everyone is, right? Most people know the name of the document, even if they aren’t aware of exactly what goes into it.  A simple explanation of a Last Will and Testament is that it is a legal document administering all of your assets (gifts, charitable donations, etc.) to individuals and organizations whom you choose to receive such items upon your death. However, it is a much more complex document than simply writing out where and to whom you want your assets to go.

A valid Last Will and Testament has a clause specifying that the new Will you have created invalidates any previous Last Will and Testaments. It also mentions that the Testator (the person making the Will) designates his or her assets (e.g. house, jewellery, everything in his/her name) to go to specific individuals of his/her choosing and names those individuals. Specific gifts to various individuals and funds for charitable donations may be listed as well. The issue of Guardianship for minor children is a vital point in any Last Will and Testament. Finally, to render the Will valid, the Testator must follow instructions and properly sign and date the Will in the correct place. The independent witnesses should follow the Testator’s example and also sign and witness in the correct place.

A Will should not be confused with a Living Will document.  A Living Will is a legal document relating to your health and well-being while you are alive. If something happens to you and you have a Living Will in place, that document ensures that you are properly looked after in accordance to your wishes. A Power of Attorney, likewise, is another legal document people sometimes confuse with a Last Will and Testament. A Power of Attorney document ensures that while you are alive, another person that you have appointed (your “attorney”) can take care of your financial assets or real estate. Neither of these two documents should be confused with a Last Will and Testament, which comes into effect only upon death.  Once you create your Will, you should consider completing your Estate Plan by creating a Power of Attorney and a Living Will. Going back to the original topic at hand, what is a Will?

Many adults often put off writing their Last Will and Testament and recent statistics suggest that at least 50% of adults don’t have a Will in place. That means that if something happens to you (e.g. you end up in a common car accident) all of your assets and items (e.g. your house, car, jewellery, funds, nice cottage by the lake), could be inherited by the wrong people. You may argue that this type of scenario will not happen to you as you have a simple estate and not many assets, but the reality is that the courts may decide where your assets end up going if you have not created your Will.

Do you ever fantasize about inheriting millions of dollars from a long-lost uncle and then retiring to a tropical paradise? That’s the fantasy but what is the reality? Assuming your long lost relative has more money than brains, what’s the craziest thing you could inherit? What if you receive something you don’t want? What do you do with it then?

 The top five list below showcases some of the weirdest items left behind in a Last Will and Testament (and alas, none of these beneficiaries presumably were able to just lie about on a sunny beach somewhere).

1. Cringeworthy

This one is a story that will make your skin crawl: in 1871, a man named Solomon Sandborn donated his body to science after his death. Sounds like a worthwhile gesture, doesn’t it? There’s a part in his Last Will that ordered his body to be skinned and made into a set of drums for his friend. The “friend” in turn, was ordered to take the drums up to Bunker Hill, Massachusetts every June 17th at dawn and drum out “Yankee Doodle Dandle.”  Solomon was apparently a patriot who wanted to celebrate the anniversary of the “Battle at Bunker Hill” posthumously.  We’re wondering how enthusiastic the “friend” was and if he ever fulfilled Solomon’s last wishes.

2. Dead Turtles

Just what in the world are you supposed to do with a family of dead turtles? That’s the question that reporter Lois Collins asked herself when she inherited a bunch of dead turtles from her late mother-in-law. Did Collins’ mother-in-law hate her in some way that she just didn’t know about? Collins’ was also told that she should take good care of the turtles so that she could pass them on to her children when they were grown. Collins is probably STILL left wondering why her mother-in-law passed on the dead reptilians to her, and is probably facing some unwanted questions about death. This bequest sure beats money, doesn’t it?

3. Creepy Red Roses

Every woman loves to get beautiful, long-stem roses from the man she loves, but some would argue that this next story is slightly creepy. A comedian by the name of Jack Benny succumbed to cancer in 1974, but not before letting the love of his life know just how much he loved her. Each day for the rest of her life after his passing she received one long red rose everyday. A seemingly romantic gesture, it may be a bit overboard, especially if his wife ever remarried. What do you think?  Creepy or romantic?

 

4. Do ghosts eat?

This is a story about a rich eccentric millionaire: obsessed with the paranormal and the afterlife after his wife and two daughters passed away, John Porter Bowman stipulated in his Last Will and Testament that a $50,000 Trust be setup after his death. The money was to look after his lavish (and empty) 21-room mansion, along with dinner to be served each night in case Bowman ever returned with his wife and daughters. We’re guessing that the ghostly trio never returned, and the dinners stopped as soon as the trust ran out.

5. The Baby “Derby”

Known as the Baby “Derby,” a race among the women of Toronto to have the most children caught the city’s attention after the death of Charles Millar (presumably another eccentric millionaire with too much time on his hands). Millar, who died in 1928, announced that the woman who gave birth to the most children after his death in the preceding 10 years, would be the winner of a good chunk of his sizable assets and estate. In 1938, the City of Toronto announced four winners: four mothers, each with nine children. The winners all received a grand total of $568,106 to be split among the four winners. A prize of $12,500 was doled out to the runner ups.

There you have it! Five of the strangest items you can find in a Last Will and Testament. You probably wouldn’t want to get any of the above listed items nor would you want to be an Executor for any of the people listed above. Think we’ll pass on these: we’re still hoping for the rich uncle to give us a fortune and sip margaritas on the beach!

You may be familiar with Alan Thicke as the star of the 1980’s hit television show, Growing Pains. The beloved Canadian actor passed away in December of 2016 at the age of 69, leaving behind a wife, two ex-spouses, and three children. Much like the battle over the estate of late actor Robin Williams, a contentious battle over the estate of Alan Thicke is heating up in the courts. 

Click here to read more.

Did you know that the famous rapper Snoop Dogg doesn’t have a Last Will and Testament? He has, in his own colorful language, brushed off the very notion with a terse “I don’t give a f___  when I’m dead.”

Snoop Dogg isn’t the only celebrity without a Last Will and Testament in place. After the death of the late singer Prince in 2016, the world was shocked to learn that he did not have a Last Will and Testament (his beneficiaries are still squabbling over his assets).

The death of a famous celebrity should not be what compels you to finish that all-too important document, but it should serve as a reminder of how important it is to complete your Will. 

Alongside a Will, you should also think about the importance of a Power of Attorney and a Living Will.

You know what a Last Will and Testament is, but what are those other two documents?

My husband is very ill, and I need to manage our household expenses

A Power of Attorney document is integral to estate-planning. It is a document which designates a trustworthy person (e.g. a spouse, parent, child, etc.) legal authority over your finances, household expenses and if necessary, financial business decisions.

In what scenarios would this occur?

The most common scenario that usually comes to mind is using a Power of Attorney to take care of an elderly parent, but there are other scenarios you may not consider:

If you are driving to work one day and wind up in a horrific car accident, you may incur brain damage or slip into a coma. At this point, you obviously cannot communicate your wishes, and while the doctors are looking after you, who is looking after your expenses, your business and your household?  

That is what a Power of Attorney document is for.  You can appoint an individual (your Attorney) to manage your finances in the event you are unable to do so. 

Do you for instance, want to grant someone else the power to open and close bank accounts in your name? Sell, own or buy property in your name? That is what a Power of Attorney allows you to do, and these are just a few of the situations a Power of Attorney covers. It is definitely something you will want to get done.

This document, once properly signed and initialized, comes into effect right away and operates while you are alive. A Last Will and Testament comes into effect after your death.

What is the difference between a Last Will and Testament and a Living Will?

My husband is very ill, and I will be in charge of his health  

In the very same scenario mentioned above (the husband left comatose in a car accident), the difficulty lies not only in managing a spouse’s financial matters, but his ailing health as well.

A Living Will allows you to name an individual to make decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable to do so. A Living Will also comes into effect while you are alive and covers a number of situations, including: appointing a decision maker for your health related choices; appointing alternate decision maker(s); donating organs; specifying end of life care, and more.

Do you want a blood transfusion? Do you want your organs donated if you pass away? If so, for what purpose would you want them donated for? Would you want your organs donated for medical purposes or scientific research?  A Living Will allows you to describe all of this in detail.

It is worth discussing all your wishes early on to ensure that you choose someone who will act on your behalf.

A paper trail

Obviously it is important to discuss these issues with family, relatives and other loved ones. A paper trail is just as important; authorities have to know what your thoughts and wishes are in relation to your health, finances, and your estate and assets.  Having written documents in relation to your wishes is always a good idea.

A famous celebrity like Snoop Dogg may not care about his children squabbling over his money, but you may care about your loved ones having to deal with lawyer fees, administration fees, infighting and court hearings.

Not having estate planning documents for the future is a bad idea. Don’t be like Snoop Dogg or Prince. Start your estate planning documents today and be prepared for anything in the future.

making a will

A Legal Will is a vital document for any individual.  Here are 5 key things to know about making a Will:

1. You need to appoint someone as your Executor

An executor is the person who will carry out the terms of your Will.  An executor is someone who you trust.  In many cases, people appoint the beneficiaries of their estate as their executor.  For example, a spouse, adult child or family member.  It also makes sense to have a back up person as an alternate executor if possible in case the first executor cannot or will not carry out the duties.

2. You can change your Will at anytime

Many people put off making a Will because they think that they have to get everything perfect and that things can never change.  On the contrary, a Will is a document that can be changed at anytime (even the second after signing it).  Wills will frequently mention that they revoke former Wills.  In addition, the latest Will is the one that would be valid based upon the date of the Will.  So, there is no reason to put off making a Will.  It is a good idea to put one together and then if it needs to be changed in the future, you can always change it.  A far better and safer option than not having a Will at all.

3. You can appoint a Guardian for your kids in a Will

A Will allows you to appoint someone you trust to look after your children.  This is one of the most important aspects of a Will because you are planning out your wishes on who you would like to take care of your kids in the event you are not around.  You can also appoint alternate guardians as well.

4. Wills do not have to be notarized or prepared by a lawyer

Wills do not have to be written by a lawyer or signed in front of a lawyer or notary.  On the contrary, Wills have been prepared for centuries based on some consistent characteristics that need to be included in a Will.  A Will made by yourself and witnessed properly is a legally binding Will.  If you have an overly complicated situation, you can always go to a lawyer but it is not required.

5. You should review your Will regularly

Many people make their Will and then forget to think about updating it as their life circumstances change.  Some of the factors that require a review of one’s Will may include:

  • An executor or beneficiary has died
  • A birth of a child
  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • A change in personal relationships
  • A change in one’s assets

Everyone should review their Will at least annually to make sure it is still consistent with their wishes.