As parents, we all have a million and one things to deal with on a daily basis and Estate Planning and creating a Will may not even be on our radar.  Today we are bringing you an article, by Amanda Doucette – The Tax Chick,  on why you may want to consider adding a Will to your list of to-dos.

Today’s blog post is inspired by a call I received recently from one of my clients.  The client indicated that this year, he planned to give each of his adult children a Will as their Christmas gift.  Perhaps it is just my inner law geek, but I thought that was the best gift ever!

However, he was not sure that his kids would see the value of the gift. He asked me if I had any resources/materials that he could share with his children on why having a Will is important. I immediately went to my blog, because I was sure I had written on this topic in the past – but I could not find anything directly on point.  (Shame on me!)  

I ended up sending my client a link to the Public Legal Education Association of Saskatchewan site which provides an excellent overview of why to make a Will.  In case you are curious, here is the link:

This whole exchange got me thinking about the fact that I do find myself having to justify the need to make a Will on a fairly regular basis. Given that my last few blog posts have focused on estate planning issues, I thought it might be helpful to include my top 5 reasons for getting your estate plan in order.

The Tax Chick’s Top 5 Reasons for Getting your Estate Planning in Order:

1. If you do not make the decision, the law will make the decision for you.

In Canada, if you do not have a Will (or if your Will does not dispose of all of your assets) you are considered to have died “intestate”.  Each province in Canada has a form of legislation that governs what happens to your assets in that instance.

For example, Saskatchewan recently amended its legislation (Intestate Succession Act, 2019 (Saskatchewan)).  In very broad terms:

  • If a person dies with a spouse and no children, the spouse gets everything.
  • If a person dies with a spouse and children (and the children are all common children of the deceased and the spouse), then the spouse still gets everything.
  • If a person dies with a spouse and children but some of the children are not common children of the deceased and the spouse, then the spouse gets a portion, and the children get a portion.
  • If a person dies without a spouse or children, the law looks to grandchildren, then up to surviving parents, and eventually to siblings.

2. It will be easier for your family and friends.

Keep in mind that even though there is legislation which will help to determine the distribution of your assets, without a Will (and without the appointment of an executor), your friends and family will very likely have to make a court application to finalize your estate.  This is costly, time consuming, and stressful for those involved.

3. Your life may be more complicated than you think.

If I had a nickel for every time I got a call from a potential client who said, “I just have a simple estate”, I would be rich!

The reality is that most people have a more complicated estate than they originally assume.  For example, here are some facts that may add complication to an estate:

  • Assets owned in various jurisdictions
  • Interests in trusts
  • Ownership of business assets
  • Blended families/second marriages
  • Dependents with addictions issues

In addition, so many people fail to think about the debt they will owe on death (both tax and non-tax).  How will the debt be paid?  What will be left to distribute among beneficiaries?  Do you have a clear understanding of what you own, and the nature of the ownership?

4. You may be able to save some money.

It is possible for some planning to be done to minimize the tax bill on death in certain situations.  It is advisable to seek advice on: (1) what the tax consequences would be if you did not do any further planning; and (2) what planning options are available.  Even if you decide not to entertain any tax planning options, at a minimum, it is important to know what the tax bill would be and do some thinking about where the funds will come from to pay the bill.

5. It will give you piece of mind.

No one likes to talk about death.  No one likes to talk about what will happen when they are no longer here.  However, it is such an important conversation to have. 

Typically, the fear or discomfort around this topic arises from a lack of understanding.  By talking about the issues and getting advice, you gain control over the topic.  I can visibly see the relief in my clients after they have completed their estate planning.  It is a huge task to “check off” the to do list.

Amanda is a tax lawyer practicing in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  She is the host of “The Tax Chick Podcast” and the founder of “The Tax Chick Blog

Connect with Amanda: