You might be surprised to learn how many people do not have a will. In March, 2012 a poll conducted by Harris/Decima revealed that 31 per cent of Canadians between the ages of 45 and 64 don’t have a will. Many people would be concerned with that statistic, but others would say, ‘Who cares, I’m not going to be here anyway’. Well, here’s a few things you might want to consider.
Having a will gives you control. Control over who gets what. Control over who becomes the guardian of your kids. Control over who manages your estate. Control over whether family heirlooms get sold or handed down to younger generations. In short, you get to make all of the decisions.
I know many people who hate government involvement of any kind. Well, guess who controls your estate if you have no will (ie. die intestate)? That’s right, provincial legislation controls how your estate will be divided, and the government gets to decide who will raise your kids.
I know someone who is widowed, has 2 estranged kids, no will, is worth $1M, and hates giving money to the government. Since he hasn’t spoken with his kids in ages and likely doesn’t know where they are (and vice versa), if he dies his kids will likely never even be informed. Since he has no other family, if his kids are not located, his wealth will eventually go the government… exactly what he would not want. And that’s after the Public Trustee gets paid to settle his estate, since there may be no one else to step in as Administrator. Even if you have no family to leave your estate to, you could still leave your wealth to one or more charities… if you have a will. No will, no control.
Many wills that I read are quite simple: the estate is split amongst a handful of beneficiaries, family members most often. Perfectly fine. Other wills are more detailed, leaving items of sentimental value to certain friends and family. Again, perfectly fine. At least there’s a will… control.
People often assume that it’s more difficult to settle an estate when there’s no will and, for the most part, that’s an accurate assumption. Due to privacy laws, third parties, like banks, will provide no information, sometimes refusing to even acknowledge if a bank account exists, let alone tell you the balance. This makes it hard to generate a list of assets & liabilities when applying for Letters of Administration, and the person applying may even need to post a bond. But, there’s a bright side (no, I’m not being facetious). When there’s no will everything gets sold, and there’s no question about who gets what… everything is clearly spelled out in the Estate Administration Act. It really is that clear cut. But, getting back to the guy with $1M and 2 estranged kids, since the Administrator will have no access to the deceased’s bank account, I wonder how much of his own money he’ll have to spend trying to find the kids.
Gregg Medwid is the owner and president of Executor Support, a firm based in Coquitlam, British Columbia, with expertise assisting executors and administrators in settling estates. The project management expertise and customer service focus Medwid brings to Executor Support ensures questions are answered and help is given when it is most needed.
This article is in no way intended to substitute for competent legal advice.
(Source for statistics: CNW Canada Newswire, May 9, 2012, “CIBC Poll: Nearly one third of Baby Boomers don’t have a will”)