by Sean Cooper.
Writing a will is something many of us like to put off. We procrastinate about doing it for many reasons. Common excuses for putting off a creating a will include “I’m too busy in my daily life,” it’s a morbid topic and “I’m too young to worry about a will.”
But have you ever stopped to think what would happen if you died without a will? With over 56% of Canadians not having a will, it’s more common than you think.
For a prime example of what happens when you die without a will, let’s look south of the border. On April 21, 2016, music fans were saddened to learn that pop icon Prince had passed away – he was only 57 years old. His death made news headlines around the globe. Soon after Prince’s death, it was discovered that he didn’t have a valid will. With an estate worth millions, dividing it between his heirs has been a messy affair and has dragged on for months.
Although the estate laws are different in the U.S. than Canada, this case highlights the importance of creating a will. Even if you’re not a multimillionaire like Prince, not having a will can create havoc for your heirs.
Here are three of the important things that you forgo when you die without a will.
Not choosing how your estate gets divided
Do you have certain wishes about how you’d like your estate to be divided when you pass away? Unless you prepare a valid will, your estate may not be divided how you want it to be.
When you pass away without a will, known as dying “intestate,” Ontario’s Succession Law Reform Act spells out how your estate is to be divided. Your estate is split in a generic method that may or may not be according to your wishes.
Ask yourself this: you worked your entire life to accumulate the assets part of your estate. Wouldn’t you rather get to choose who gets to inherit everything you have built and accumulated over the years , rather than leaving it in the hands of the courts?
Not choosing who gets your children
If you’re a parent, your children are your pride and joy. If you have younger children at home, you’ll want to make sure they’re taken care of if you were suddenly no longer around. You may think, “What’s the big deal? My sister would take care of my kids if my husband and I were to pass away.” But without a valid will that might not happen.
Unless you appoint a guardian to look after your children in your will, the courts will decide who takes care of them. Your children could end up in the care of your sister – or in a foster home. You have no way of knowing for certain. I don’t know about you, but I’d sleep a lot better at night with a valid will spelling out exactly who cares for my kids.
Not choosing the charity or organization you’d like to help out
Is there a certain charity or organization that you care about and that you’ve always wanted to donate to through your estate once you pass away? Unfortunately, this opportunity would probably be missed without a valid will.
As mentioned earlier, the government will divide your estate as it sees fit based on a cookie-cutter formula. This makes it highly unlikely it would give some of that money to the charity that you hold near and dear to you. Again, this could have all been avoided if you had simply taken the time to create a will.