Want to make a Last Will and Testament, but not sure where to start?
What is a Last Will and Testament?
A Last Will and Testament (or a “Will”) tells us what to do with your property – your estate – after you die.
Making a Will is important, because if you don’t tell us what to do with your estate, we will use default rules to decide how your assets are divided.
These rules – called intestacy laws – might surprise you, and not in a good way! Making a Will overturns these rules, and lets you control how you want your estate to be divided.
So what happens if I don’t have a Will?
The Wills, Estates & Succession Act tells us what to do if you haven’t made a Will.
If you haven’t made a Will, much depends on who your family members are.
If you have a spouse, but no children, and you never made a Last Will and Testament, then your spouse will inherit your estate. That seems pretty normal, right? But what happens if you haven’t made a Will?
A formula set out in the law tells us who inherits your estate. The result depends on whether your children are from your current spouse, or a prior relationship.
Spouse and shared children
Your spouse will NOT automatically inherit everything first. Your estate will be split between your spouse and your children.
If your children are minors, this becomes particularly challenging. Imagine your spouse having to share ownership of your home and bank accounts with your minor children?!
Spouse and non-shared children
What on earth does this mean?
Blended families are quite common nowadays. Whether because of divorce or the death of a first spouse, people will often have two or three marriages over the course of their lifetime.
So now, you might have children from a previous relationship and a new spouse (who isn’t the other parent of your children). Here’s an example of what that might look like from an inheritance perspective:
No spouse, but descendants
If you don’t have a spouse, and you never made a Will, your estate is divided among your descendants. Your descendants include not only your children, but your children’s children, and so on.
As you can see, this gets complicated pretty quickly. Making a Will avoids all of this confusion.
We would be happy to show you what these distribution schemes mean for you.
How often should I make a Last Will and Testament?
Wills don’t actually take effect until you die, so you can keep updating and changing your Will whenever an important event happens in your life.
A well-drafted Will should cover off enough changes in your life to last you for 5-10 years. But laws change, and so does your life. You want to make a Will quite regularly, as an adult.
Think of a Will like a good set of car tires, or kitchen appliances. They might work beautifully when you first get them, but over time, they might not meet current standards anymore. They might not do what you want, or have the latest and greatest technical components in them.
Ask us for a review session if you aren’t sure whether your Last Will and Testament is doing what you want anymore.
Can I cut someone out of my Will?
You can try. But there is no guarantee you will succeed at it.
We have testamentary freedom in BC – this means you are allowed to distribute your estate as you would like. In other words, you can make a Will that ignores your family and gives everything to a charity.
However, we also have Wills variation provisions in our laws, which allow a spouse or child to make a claim against your estate if they feel that they have not been left “adequate provision” in your estate.
What’s the difference between a last Will and Testament drawn by a BC Notary and one from a BC Lawyer?
BC Notaries and BC Lawyers can both help you make a Will.
Please let us know if you have any of the following situations happening when you call us for an appointment, as that will help us determine the best BC Notary or BC Lawyer to meet with you:
- are in the midst of a separation or divorce
- want to cut someone out of your Will
- have a blended family
- have recently been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness
- are experiencing any difficulties with your mental capacity
Call us to set up an appointment to discuss making a Will. We would be happy to explain your obligations and duties, and to help you draft a Will that will make life easier for your family after you have passed.May 6, 2017 4:08 pm