When it comes to personal finance, for the most part, I don’t believe that there’s any room for judgment. How you choose to save and spend your money is up to you. But if you’re an adult and don’t have a will, especially if you’re a parent, then I am judging you.
Creating a will doesn’t have to be scary; not having one is what’s scary. So if you are an adult, you need a will. Let me explain why and what happens if you don’t have one.
Why You Need a Will
Having a will gives you power, eases your affairs’ resolution if something happens to you, and is an enduring act of love to your family and friends.
When you create a will, you have the power to choose who will be your representative, who will be the guardian for your minor children, and how your estate will be delegated or divided. Without a will, all of those decisions are in the power of the courts.
Even though your estate may go to your surviving spouse or family members when you don’t have a will, the process can be very long and drawn out through the courts. Your family and friends will not be able to settle any of your affairs, including things like selling your car or accessing your bank accounts, until everything goes through the courts.
Just by taking a little time now, you can save your family and friends hours, if not days, of increased stress upon your passing. Making a will and keeping it up to date is an enduring act of love. It will make handling your affairs less stressful for your family and friends, saving them time. It is your final gift to them – the gift of time.
Why People Avoid Writing Their Wills
According to a survey conducted by the Angus Reid Institute, 51% of Canadians don’t have a last will and testament, and only 35% say that their will is up to date. That means that less than 15% of Canadians have an up to date legal will. This is a problem, a big problem.
Here are some of the top reasons why adults avoid making a will:
- Its too complicated
- Don’t want to have to make decisions
- Its too expensive
- Fear of death
- Think you don’t need one
Let’s dig into these “excuses” and put them to rest once and for all.
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Its Too Complicated
It has never been easier to create a legal will in Canada.
Many online options will walk you through the process. They make it very simple and avoid all the legal jargon that you’ve probably been avoiding.
In Canada, a will does not need to be notarized or registered to be legal. You don’t even need a lawyer.
Don’t Want to Have to Make Decisions
Newsflash, being an adult sometimes means making tough choices.
Yes, when making a will, there may be some tough decisions. You will have to decide who will be your representative (also known as your executor), who will have guardianship of your minor children, and how you would like your estate delegated upon your death.
And although these may seem like difficult decisions, not making them and avoiding the fact that you need a will, doesn’t make the decisions go away. By not making the tough decisions, you enable the courts to decide upon your death.
As hard as some of these decisions seem, I would much rather decide who will be the guardian for my little one and my estate’s delegation then give up that freedom of choice to a stranger in a courtroom.
Its Too Expensive
Getting your will done by a lawyer if you have a very complicated estate can be expensive; I’m not going to lie.
But the majority of Canadians don’t have a complicated estate. When we bought our first home we decide to get to create our wills. It cost us $300, and that included our last wills and testaments, personal directives, and the enduring power of attorneys.
If you think that $300 is still a lot of money, there are online will creating options that will help you write your will for a fraction of that cost.
You can even prepare your will in your handwriting. This is known as a holograph will, and although it’s not the best option (because you are likely to forget vital information to include), it’s still better than not having a will.
Fear of Death
I’m going to let you in on a little secret, writing your will does not mean that you are tempting fate or will die any sooner than if you didn’t have a will.
I think rationally, people understand this, but when emotions are involved we tend to be irrational at times.
A will has no power while you are alive. It’s not as if someone can come and begin to take your assets while you are alive because you have bequeathed them in your will.
Think You Don’t Need One
This is one excuse I’ve heard many times from friends, especially those without kids. They think that because they have no minor children that they don’t need a will. Or if they don’t have any assets, then they don’t have a will.
But the reality is, if you are an adult, you need a will. Your will gives your personal representative the power to deal with your affairs – that includes anything and everything that may be in your name when you die. Not having one is not only lazy, but it is also selfish.
Having a legal (up to date) will help your survivors (family and friends) deal with your estate after you are gone. It makes things much easier than if you didn’t have a will. Making a will and keeping it up to date can be an enduring act of love to your loved ones.
What Happens If You Die Without a Will
Here is where things get complicated.
If you die without a will, the courts are appointed to manage your estate. There are different intestate laws in each province and territory for how this will proceed.
Without a will, there is nobody appointed to take charge of your affairs. So the courts will appoint an Estate Administrator to located your assets and distribute them according to Provincial/Territorial law.
Although each province and territory has its own intestate laws, here is an example of what may happen to your estate if you die without a will.
- If you are single (with no kids or grandkids) your estate goes to your parents. If you have no surviving parents then it goes to your siblings. And if you have no siblings it goes to your nieces and nephews. No nieces and nephews? Then your estate would be passed on to your cousins. And if you have no surviving relatives your estate becomes the property of the government.
- If you are married (with no kids) your estate goes to your spouse. But the process of this transition is much slower than if you had a legal will in place.
- If you are married (with kids), it is complicated as to who gets your estate and in what proportions. This is where it varies significantly by province/territory.
So to everyone reading this who is a single adult without kids, I have one question – do you want the government to inherit your estate when you die? I’m not single but as a married parent, I would not want the government their hands on getting my hard-earned estate.
As a parent, I feel an obligation to ensure that my little one is cared for should something happen to me. Yes, you could argue that there is a small chance that something could happen. But there is still that chance, and not being prepared for it is not something I’m willing to gamble with.
Creating a will and keeping it up to date will take you a few hours a year (at most). But it can save your loved ones hours upon hours of time upon your death. And the easier your estate is, the easier (and cheaper) it can be to make your will.
Please don’t be part of the 51% of Canadians who do not have a will. Make creating your will a priority.