A will leaves clear written instructions regarding your final wishes as a “testator”. It provides directions as to who should manage your affairs and allows the testator to ensure that their assets are distributed in accordance with their wishes.
Without a valid will, a person dies as “intestate” and provincial legislation dictates the division of the property. A professionally drafted will can give you peace of mind and ensure that the uncertainty, delays, and costs associated with intestacy are avoided.
For example, absent a will:
Ø A court will appoint a personal representative to deal with your estate, even if they are not the person you would have chosen.
Ø Minor children receive their entire share of the estate at age 18, not when you think they should.
Ø A court-appointed personal representative will control the distribution of your assets, including items of sentimental value and/or family heirlooms. Your desire to have a certain family member or friend receive an item of personal value to you may go unfulfilled.
Ø Any remaining debts you have upon your death may become the obligation of a child, spouse, or other family member.
A lawyer can help you ensure that your will is valid and enforceable, and that all legal requirements are met. They can ensure that you have carefully considered alternatives, such as what should happen if one or more beneficiaries dies before you do. A valid will can help ensure the substantial legal fees associated with interpreting a will or distributing an estate via the court are avoided where possible.
The purpose of a will is to indicate how you want your estate to be distributed after you pass away. But once it’s made, it should be updated to reflect your interests as your life changes. For example, you may want to change who is the executor of your estate, or re-distribute assets after the addition of a new child to the family. Just like the original will, an amendment (called a Codicil) must be carefully drafted to ensure its enforceability.