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Top Five Reasons Why You Should Have a Will, And Not Procrastinate Any Longer

Most people already know that they need a will, but for some reason they put it off for another day.  Perhaps the decisions around division of assets, or guardianship of minor children highlight our mortality – and that’s a scary thought.  Perhaps the cost isn’t something factored into their budget (but they still manage that all-inclusive trip to Mexico – something far more expensive than a will by the way).  Whatever the reason, many Albertans die every year without a will – likely something that they did not intend to do. 

To help provide some motivation to prioritize this important legal document, here’s a top five list of why you should have a will, and not procrastinate having one prepared any longer.

1.     You get to decide how your estate will be divided.  If you die intestate (without a will) then legislation will determine how your estate is to be administered (to whom, and how much).  If you die intestate and any of the following situations describe you (please note that this list is not exhaustive), you may be surprised that your wishes will not be met under the current legislative framework: (i) you are divorced and want to distribute assets to your biological children and to your current spouse; (ii) you want to leave money to charity; (iii) you are separated from your spouse and you do not want them to receive assets under your estate; or (iv) you have no spouse or children.

2.     You decide who will care for your minor children.  If you have minor children, appointing someone to be their guardian in the event of your death is one of the most important things that you can do in a will.  By appointing a guardian in your will, you can choose someone who shares the same values as you and who you believe would raise your children like you would.  Likewise, you can make it known in your will who you do not want to be guardian of your children.  Without a will, guardianship of your children will be decided in Court, an expensive, and likely emotional experience for your surviving family. 

3.     You can determine when your children receive their share of your estate.  If you die without a will your children will receive what they are entitled to under provincial legislation at the time they turn 18.  Some parents feel that 18 is too young for their child to receive all of their inheritance.  If you have a will can you dictate the timing for when your children receive their share of your estate (for example, you could decide to give them 50% of their share on each of their 18th and 21st birthdays).

4.     A will can minimize disputes among your family.  A clearly written will, expressing your wishes and intentions regarding the division of your assets can minimize disputes among your family.  In fact, even the knowledge amongst your children that you have a will that is current and expresses your wishes can bring peace of mind that your estate will be distributed in accordance with your desires.  Without a will, expensive, time-consuming litigation can divide a family, rather than bring them together at a difficult time.

5.     A will appoints a personal representative.  A personal representative is the person that will administer your estate (also known as an executor).  Since your personal representative will have the responsibility to manage your estate it is important that you select someone that you trust to manage your affairs in accordance with the instructions set out in your will. Once you have appointed a personal representative in your will you can be confident that your estate will be managed in accordance with your wishes. 

The above noted points are not the only reasons why having a will is important.  Remember, when the time comes that you really need a will, it's too late to have one prepared.  To help prepare yourself and your family for what will already be an emotional time, meet with a lawyer to discuss your estate planning needs.  Olson Law Group would be please to assist you.  Please call 587-757-9393 to book an appointment.


Matt Olson