Many horror stories one hears about estates are true. Again and again, people’s intentions are not fulfilled and families are torn apart because of poor information, misplaced trust and/or lack of sound planning. Is this the legacy the deceased wanted to leave behind? Individuals can avoid having their family’s grief compounded by legal wrangling and results that were unintended, emotionally upsetting and financially costly.
Many think the value of their estate is too low to need a Will. They should reconsider. Often, people fail to take into account all of the assets that come into play at the time the estate is administered.
People assume that the primary beneficiary or joint account holder (often a spouse or common-law partner) will be there to accept the inheritance and therefore believe that a Will isn’t necessary. The possibility, or outcome, of both dying should be considered.
Without a Will, no one has the right to manage the deceased’s affairs until an administrator is appointed. The estate is in limbo until this step is completed. And, when the application is made, the court may require that the potential administrator post a bond to ensure the assets of the estate are protected in the event of mismanagement. Also, consider that a delay in the estate administration may result in higher fees and charges. If there’s a business, is the person eligible to apply as administrator the most appropriate choice to operate that business?
Without a Will, there is no opportunity to name a guardian for minor children. This is of the utmost importance should both parents die in a common accident. Even if parents have difficulty in selecting the most appropriate person or persons to name as guardian for their children, it’s better for them to voice their wishes in a Will rather than allow family to begin the battle of ‘who does (or doesn’t) get the children’.
Without a Will, there is no opportunity to establish a trust for minor children or physically or mentally incapacitated adult children. Minors would receive their share as soon as they reach age of majority. If a physically or mentally incapacitated adult child is receiving government assistance, that assistance would stop as soon as their share of the estate is available.
Without a Will, there is no opportunity to benefit the charity that the deceased supported generously throughout the years.
These are only a few reasons why being the person ‘without a Will’ is not a prudent course of action. Compounding this, some people are reluctant to pay for quality professional services. They seek out the cheapest solutions without measuring the savings against the financial and human costs that can result. The old adage that “the only thing more expensive than hiring a professional is hiring an amateur” can be very applicable in this area. A good estate lawyer will ensure the wording and construction of the Will is clear and actionable.
Death is a very difficult time. It should not be made more tragic because assets are wasted and family relationships strained, all because of inadequate planning.
Concentra Trust can act in the capacity of executor and trustee. Personal trust services are offered by Concentra Trust, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Concentra Financial.
Joan McAulay, Senior Personal Trust Specialist, Trust Relationship Management & Sales
Concentra Trust, A wholly-owned subsidiary of Concentra Financial