This website does not intend to be legal advice but contains general information. Please consult a lawyer or other professional to determine how the information on these pages might apply to you.
Importance of a Will
Whether from your own planning perspective, or from the perspective of handling someone else’s estate, it’s important to understand why a properly written will is essential and pivotal to the accurate and smooth handling of your funds and possessions after death.
If a will is written properly, it becomes a legal document that carries power in a court of law. All legal documents have a formal structure, and are written in concise, professional language to eliminate any potential for misinterpretation. This ensures that your precious and hard-earned financial assets and possessions go precisely to where and to whom you want them to go.
Why we procrastinate
Still, despite the power of a will, over half of all Canadians do not have a dependable will. Why not?
- Some people still begrudge the costs (both financial and time-wise) associated with creating one. Choosing a cheap hammer might make sense for a small job; choosing a cheap solution to writing a will opens up a huge arena for error and misunderstanding, and gives a shaky foundation to a very complicated, stressful, and emotional process.
- Writing a will can feel very intimidating, a task full of difficult decisions, details, and costs.
- Every will needs to be reviewed at least every ten years. Out-dated wills are the cause of much confusion and frustration.
- Some people write a will themselves from a store-bought generic template. If one small, legal detail is neglected, the entire document becomes useless.
- Many allow procrastination to win out and have no will at all.
It’s easy to see why people procrastinate. But think of it this way. All the decisions and tricky issues you avoid now will get passed on, like an unwanted legacy, to your loved ones or to whoever gets stuck handling your affairs after you die.
Instead of being remembered for your lifetime of kindness and hard work, your fine memory will be contaminated by confusion, anxiety, resentment, and unnecessary paperwork that can take years to finally clear up.
Is this how you want to be remembered?
A suggestion: Choose a lawyer who will take time to teach, and who will help you make difficult decisions. You will be remembered as a hero. It will cost a few bucks, but you will be remembered as a hero whose family was looked after even after death.
Choosing to be an Executor
Being named as executor means you are willing to take on the administrative responsibilities of ‘executing’ the wishes of the deceased.
There is nothing romantic about being an executor. It’s a purely administrative task, often complicated and tedious. If you have accepted responsibility for being an executor, prepare yourself for an office job that requires organization, attention to detail, and accountability to impatient family members. And even if you’ve done the job before, there are always stressful learning curves.
Death is an ordeal for all families with the potential of bringing out the very best and the very worst of people. Division of one hundred dollars can split a family into camps of bitter resentment to last a lifetime.
If you are an executor, or getting your own affairs in order, it’s probably impossible to completely prevent feelings of mistrust and greed. Whenever division of assets is involved, people get impatient, or frustrated, jealous and nervous because they feel like they have no control. When they feel out of control, they blame the executor, the government, other family members, the bank, or often, the deceased, the poor dead person who wrote the will in the first place. Instead of leaving behind fond memories of a good and caring person, somebody in the family is going to remember you because you didn’t give them the snowmobile.