Legal Advice On Will Creation
One of the most important steps in planning your estate involves preparing a will. In your will, you appoint Estate Trustees (the people who will manage your estate after you die). You then give instructions as to how your Estate Trustees are to distribute your property.
When creating a will, it is important to plan for a wide variety of scenarios and to avoid unintended consequences. The language must be precise, because any ambiguity could result in your wishes not being carried out, or in a lawsuit that could cost your estate tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
A well-drafted will also contains clauses that, among other things, give your executor the flexibility to handle unforeseen events and the power to sell your real estate (which is not automatic) and that protect heirs who inherit from your estate and later become involved in a matrimonial breakup.
Why You Need A Will
Having a will allows you to exercise control over the division of your assets after you die. Preparing a will is your opportunity to exercise that control, by deciding who will benefit from your property. It is also your opportunity to make special arrangements such as setting up trusts for children and grandchildren and to express your wishes concerning guardianship of your children. Your instructions in your will can also help provide financial security for members of your family with special needs, such as disabled parents or children.
There are potentially serious negative consequences if you die without a will:
- If you leave no will, your loved ones may be forced to spend a great deal of time and money getting a court order to appoint one of them as Estate Trustee.
- Your assets will be divided according to Ontario inheritance laws that apply when a person dies without a will. Your property could end up, in some cases, in the hands of distant relatives you may not even know, or relatives you dislike or have no interest in.
- If you have children under the age of 18, you will have no say in who raises them, the amount of their inheritance, when they receive their inheritance, and who manages their inheritance before they receive it. By law, if there is no will, the Ontario government may become involved in the handling of money inherited by those under age 18.
When drafting a will, you must take into account the legal and practical consequences of your directives. An estate lawyer can help you understand how your instructions may burden your loved ones with avoidable fees and taxes and can point out many other common pitfalls in will creation.
If your will is not carefully drafted, your loved ones may become embroiled in disputes when it is time to administer your estate, due to uncertainties about the intentions you have expressed. As a will creation lawyer, I can help you anticipate any potential conflicts and special needs among your beneficiaries. The will we draft will be clear, sensitive to your family’s needs and less likely to cause your loved ones to end up in litigation at a time when they need one another’s support the most.
Who gets your family cottage or vacation home if you and your spouse die?
Your will can deal to some extent with your family cottage. However, there are additional steps you can take to try to prevent disputes arising among your children and grandchildren over questions such as:
- Who can use the cottage and when?
- Who pays the utility and repair bills?
- Who makes decisions about future renovations and upkeep?
- How can a child sell his or her share of the cottage or compel another child to sell his or her share?
- What to do if all your children want to sell the cottage, but cannot agree on the price?