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Why do I need a will?

Mary Jane Saunders
Mary Jane Saunders Wills/Estates

People often ask me whether or not it is necessary to go through the formalities and costs of having a will prepared. My answer is always “YES”, and my reasoning is as follows:

A Will sets out a number of things including:

  1. who has the authority to administer the estate (i.e. the executor); and
  1. who will benefit from the estate (i.e. the beneficiaries).

If a person dies without preparing a will, they will lose the ability to control who will carry out their wishes and who will benefit from their estate.

Some people are of the belief that they will be gone and what happens next is really none of their concern. This may be the case, however it is important to consider that when you do not appoint someone to act as your executor through a Will, your family members or friends will have to apply to obtain this authority and provincial laws will determine who has priority to make this application. These provincial laws do not ensure that the most qualified or most trusted family member will be appointed, nor do they prevent disputes among those who may be entitled to apply.

A Will provides individuals with the ability to set out who the beneficiaries of their estate will be and what they each will be entitled to. If you don’t prepare a Will provincial laws will dictate who is entitled to benefit from your estate and those people are not necessarily the people you may want. Many people assume that everything will be left to their spouse, but this may not necessarily be the case if you die with a spouse and children. What if you and your spouse die at the same time? What if you are in a common law relationship with someone? In the Province of Nova Scotia, if you die without a Will your common law spouse is not entitled to benefit from your estate. What if your children are still minors when you die?

Those are all topics for future blog posts, but the points to take away are that by not preparing a Will you:

  1. lose the ability to choose who your executor will be;
  2. lose the ability to choose who you want to benefit from your estate;
  3. lose the ability to plan for such things as income tax, probate tax, disabled beneficiaries, common accidents and estranged family members;
  4. increase the costs associated with administering your estate; and
  5. possibly increase the potential for conflict among family members by not having the most suitable person acting as your executor.

For more information on why you should prepare a Will or how we can help you with your Will please contact our Wills, Estates and Trusts Department.