In May 2017, TD Bank released the results of a new study that found about half of Canadians do not have a will. The report further discovered that more than one-third of Canadians don’t even share their wishes with their loved ones. Similar numbers were found in a BMO survey. Financial experts warn this will only lead to one thing in the end: family chaos and drama.
“Family drama may inevitably spill over into discussions about how to divide assets up as siblings wrestle over the fate of the family business or the sale of the summer cottage. However, much of this conflict can be mitigated if there’s a will in place,” said Rowena Chan, senior vice president of TD Wealth’s financial planning division, in a statement.
To ensure that your estate is shielded from government intrusion and that your family will not wage war against one another, it is imperative to delve into estate planning today. And this starts with seeking the professional advice from estate lawyers. An estate lawyer will provide you with the essentials to both estate law and estate planning.
Here are five basic estate law tips every attorney will tell clients:
1. Creating a Will is the First Step
Well, this is where we begin: creating a will is the very first step you must take.
An estate attorney will provide you with the necessary documents and forms to complete, and will extend any advice as to how to complete a will.
You should certainly give yourself a pat on the back because most Canadians fail to even take this initial step in estate planning.
2. Clearly Outline What You Want
In the will, you should clearly inform everyone what exactly you want. Everything from how much money goes to each family member or charity to what assets you are willing to leave behind, as you get older, you will have accumulated many assets, money and even entities.
The worst thing you could do is being vague, poetic or obnoxious in your will.
3. Always Keep Your Will Up-to-Date
A common mistake that most people make is not updating their wills. In fact, according to other studies in recent years, around 75 percent of individuals fail to update their wills, and this is only a disaster waiting to happen.
The rule of thumb that most estate lawyers will highlight is to review your will every three to five years. Indeed, if something drastic occurs in your life, then you can always revise it much earlier than that.
That said, it is important to update your will every few years or so to ensure that the right people receive an inheritance, a specific non-profit organization exists or you’re taking advantage of certain tax benefits and privileges.
4. Determine Roles for Family Members
Should you have an immense estate, then perhaps you should consider allocating roles for family members. For instance, you may want to have guardians for minor children, trustees for your estate, an executor of your will and individuals with powers of attorney.
This makes perfect sense when you are wealthy and have a large family.
5. It Must be Legally Completed
Lastly, and this is also a common error that many of us make, your will and estate must be legally completed. In other words, you can’t simply write your wishes down on a cocktail napkin or on a random piece of paper.
You must create a will with the proper legal documents and forms. These then need to be witnessed, signed and notarized. If these do not happen, then your wishes may not be carried out.
When you’re young, you never think about estate planning. However, once you reach middle-age, and you have complied a lot of assets over the years and developed a family, you start thinking about the future. You want your family to be taken care of, you want your fortune to properly managed and you want to ensure the right people and groups get some of your money.
Estate lawyers have seen many clients make mistakes, causing an incredible strain on families. At the same time, estate lawyers have seen many clients make the right decisions.
You, too, can make the right choices by consulting with an estate lawyer almost immediately.