You may have very loving children and great relationships with your extended family. You have heard that all your assets and Estate will be passed on to your children even if you don’t have a Will. While it is possible that this might work out for your family, in many circumstances it doesn’t. Meeting with a lawyer who practices exclusively in Wills and Estates, and who assists people with obtaining Probate and Grants of Administration for Estates can be a very informative process. You might realize that in your circumstance having a properly prepared Will is critical for the wellbeing of your family after your death. There are numerous reasons this could be, but these are some of the more common issues that arise if there is no Will after someone dies.
A Will Is Essential To:
Decide on the Distribution of Your Estate
The most common reason to have a Will prepared is to outline how your assets will be divided after your death. There are laws to dictate what happens to your assets if you do not have a Will, but this might not be the distribution you would have wanted. There are also important considerations to make if you have a blended family or if you have a child living with a disability. The law attempts to accommodate for these issues where there is no Will, but this would result in Court applications which are very expensive for your Estate and often results in hard feelings and irreparable damage to family relationships. Sometimes a beneficiary with mental health or addictions issues would actually be in danger if he or she were to inherit a large sum of money unless it is contained in a special Trust. A Will prepared on the advice of a lawyer who is very knowledgeable in this area of law can help you avoid these potential issues to ensure that your loved ones are protected and their relationships remain strong after your death.
Name a Guardian for Minor Children
The next most common reason to have a Will prepared is to name a guardian for your minor children after you are gone. A Will allows you to decide and specify who that person should be. If you have not specified a Guardian, it is possible for family members to actually enter into a custody battle over your children. There are often two sets of grandparents and two sets of aunts and uncles. They might all want your children and they might all disagree about what would be in the best interest of your children. You might actually not prefer that any family members take guardianship if you have estranged relationships with them or if you have very close family friends who would raise your children more similarly to how you would. The person in the best position to make the decision about what is in the best interest of your children is you. There is no one better at raising your child than you, but at least you can find the next best option.
Appoint an Executor
An Executor (called a Personal Representative in Alberta), is a person who makes sure all the necessary processes are followed after your death. This includes making funeral arrangements, taking care of the Probate process, gathering your Estate assets, paying off final bills, and cancelling your credit cards among other things. Appointing an Executor prevents uncertainty as to who should take this important job on. In Alberta there are laws which assist the Court in deciding which family member would be first in line to take charge of your Estate, but that is not always the person who would be best for the job. The Personal Representative has the important job of ensuring your money is available as quickly as possible to care for your minor children or to distribute among your loved ones if appropriate. It is very important to find someone with the appropriate skill set, and this person is not always a family member.
Ensure Funds Are Held Appropriately for Minor Children
A person under 18 cannot directly receive assets from an Estate. If you have died without a Will while your children are minors, the children will still have an entitlement to your Estate, but the Office of the Public Trustee may become involved to hold funds for the children. The Office of the Public Trustee is a very important government institution for protecting the assets of minors and cognitively impaired adults, but when that office holds Estate funds, it is much less convenient for the Guardian of the children to get access to the funds that they require for the benefit of your children. Also if you have died without a Will, your children will receive the entire balance of their inheritance at age 18. 18 year olds are not known for their impulse control; so it is often beneficial to instruct in your Will that they are to receive outright at an older age.
Facilitate and Speed Up the Probate Process
Even if Probate is not required, the administration of an Estate is typically quicker and much easier for the Personal Representative if you have a Will prepared by a lawyer who has experience with preparing applications for Probate. In some Estates the presence of a Will is a significant reason why the Personal Representative is able to proceed without a Grant of Probate. In cases where Probate is required, the Will is proof of authority, so it usually helps the Executor collect information required for the Probate application. A lawyer who is experienced in Probate applications also knows how to word a Will to ensure that the Probate process will not cost more or take more time than is necessary. Sometimes a poorly drafted Will takes more than double the time and expense to Probate. Wills prepared without an experienced Estates lawyer are typically riddled with errors and deficiencies. When you consider Probate expenses, Will kits are usually a very expensive choice.
Death of a loved one is already difficult. But if you have put a clear and well executed Will in place, at least you have made the logistics of dealing with your Estate easier for those who are left behind. When you are confident in the Will you have signed it creates an enormous sense of relief. If you are looking for trusted lawyers with a wealth of Wills and Probate experience to assist you, then get in touch with us.