Regardless of your stage of life, you should be considering estate planning measures. While planning for your death is an uncomfortable topic, ensuring that your estate is taken care of can relieve potential financial, administrative and legal consequences for your family or loved ones.
A will allows you to control the disposition of your assets. The instructions that you leave in a legally binding will, will ensure that your intentions for your assets are followed.
How your estate will be divided without a will in place
If you die without a will in Ontario, the law says that you have died “intestate.” This means that the Ontario Succession Law Reform Act will govern how your assets and property are divided. The law affords a hierarchy of how your property will be divided regardless of your true wishes.
Benefits of having a will in place
You choose the executor of your estate
The executor of your estate, also known in Ontario as your personal representative, is the person you choose to carry out the wishes of your will. This person will ensure that your personal affairs are in order and may be responsible for:
- Funeral arrangements
- Your banking, credit cards, assets and debts
- Your income tax returns
- Your asset distribution
You direct how your assets are distributed
A will allows you to draw clear intentions of how you want your assets distributed. This process avoids potential litigious measures by legally binding who will inherit your money and property when you die.
You select a guardian of minor children
If you have minor children that depend on you for support, you are able to name a guardian of choice in your will. This is not legally binding, rather a directive for the court, and a request that will factor into a court's decision.
You can reduce estate taxes
Taxes will be deducted from your estate after your death. The Ontario tax administration is charged on the total value of your assets: real estate, investments, vehicles, bank accounts, intangible property, life insurance etc. A large benefit of estate planning is that your lawyer can direct you on how to minimize the taxes on your estate.
Legal expenses and longer process to settle your estate
If you do not have a will your estate will incur avoidable legal expenses and timelines. There are many legal ways to reduce your expenses in relation to probate costs, administration costs, trustee/guardian expenses and taxes.
Without a will in place, the economic fate of your assets is left with the government and law to decide. Simply put, you need a will. To begin the estate planning process obtain legal advice from a St. Catharines Estates lawyer from the Niagara law firm of Chown Cairns. To find your Wills and Estate lawyer click here.