For many Will providers, legal societies, and charities in Canada, November is Make-A-Will Month. Since November tends to be a month of calm before preparing for winter holidays, this is the perfect time to ensure that estate planning items such as Wills are up-to-date.
For this post, we thought we would go back to the basics and answer some of the important questions around what makes us so passionate about ensuring Canadians have valid and up-to-date Wills.
Doesn’t everyone have a Will?
Well actually, according to an Angus Reid study, about 51% of Canadians did not have a Will before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among those who do have Wills, several designations can also be out of date depending on what has changed in a person’s life since their last time updating it.
What prevents a person from having a Will?
There are a lot of misconceptions around Wills as a whole. From the same study mentioned above, the most common reasons that Canadians did not have Wills were that they thought it was not something to be worried about because of being “too young”, or because they didn’t feel they had enough assets. Although common, these reasons are why there’s so much inertia around creating Wills.
Generally speaking though, there’s a time, complexity, price issue that prevents many Canadians from having an up-to-date Will. It’s an item that can lose priority quickly on an individual or couple’s to-do list, since few people understand the importance of having a Will. Either the process seems too complicated, they may not have time for multiple meetings with a lawyer during the work day, and Wills may not be updated as frequently as needed due to the cost of visiting a lawyer every couple of years.
Why should I have a Will?
Having an up-to-date Wills gives you peace of mind that your assets and loved ones will be protected in the event of your sudden or unexpected passing. A simple Will can ensure that your wealth and assets are distributed to your loved ones the way you intend, and that guardians are assigned to minor children and pets.
Additionally, depending on the province, there can be a greater impact on common-law couples. For more information on common-law spouses, you can read our additional post on leaving your legacy to chance.
What are my options for creating a Will?
There are generally three ways to create a will: 1) handwriting a Will, 2) hiring a lawyer or 3) using an online software or app.
Handwriting a will (Holographic Wills), while inefficient, are common enough and often used in emergency situations, such as when the writer, known as the testator, is near death or alone.
Hiring a lawyer is the traditional choice for Wills and estate planning documents, where legal advisory is available to help you get all your estate needs in order. However, since the majority of the testator's needs are generally simple, the added cost and hassle of multiple in-person meetings may not be worth it depending on the simplicity of your estate.
An Online Will-writing service or app is an option many people are not aware is much more affordable and less complex than other options. For the majority of requirements, online apps or software are an effective and budget-savvy way for those with simple estate requirements to create a Will and other estate planning documents.
When and how often should I update my Will?
This really depends on the age and life stage of an individual or couple, since there are several trigger events that should prompt a necessary update. These events generally revolve around a legal status change or the accumulation of assets. Just a few examples are getting married or divorced, buying a house, and having a child. If you also want to explore these events further, you can read our post on Creating Your First Will.
Where possible, having a yearly “estate checkup” is perhaps the most effective way to ensure that your estate planning documents such as Wills, Power of Attorney documents, and life insurance policies are always updated accordingly. This yearly review can serve as a check-in on what may have changed in your life over the past year, and what needs to be updated as a result.
Should I do anything else after creating or updating my Will?
Just because you’ve signed and stored your Will, it doesn’t mean that the process for carrying out your wishes is finished. The final step in the process is ensuring that you have an open line of communication with your loved ones about your intentions.
Although this is an extremely important step, it’s unfortunately one that many people miss. Sharing your intentions and having an ongoing dialogue about your Will with family members ensures that no questions go unanswered when you eventually pass away. “You can never predict how a loved one will react to your passing”, says estate planning expert, Mallory McGrath, who wrote a previous post for us covering the importance of sharing your intentions with family members.