Why Don’t You Have a Will?
It’s summer time and we need to enjoy every minute of it. So while you are enjoying some relaxing reading time in the shade or on a rainy day, add this article to your list of things to read and act on... soon…
Everyone needs a Will. Period.
Do I have to remind you? We will all die. So let’s get that out of the way.
Who is it that said: there are two certainties in life: Death and Taxes? It was Benjamin Franklin and here is his written quote: “…but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”
I’m here to help remind you about the one that is not taxes. I live and breathe taxes for about four months, so time to help you with the other certainty in life.
Once you have your Will and other important documents in place, you will feel relieved and have peace of mind; and you can live life to the fullest, knowing you have checked off that box.
So what is holding you back?
The main reason for not having a Will is procrastination: “I’ll get around to it eventually”.
Most of you know you need a Will and you know it’s a good idea, but just haven’t done it yet.
The other certainty in life has a deadline; about 95% of Canadian taxpayers file their taxes on time. Our office staff would agree with that estimation.
Unfortunately (or is it fortunately?) we do not know when we will need our Will to be in place; we do not know when we will die. Yes, some people get very ill and have “time” to get their affairs in order, but others die unexpectedly and do not have “warning time”. Of course if you have a terminal illness and know you will die soon, you get the Will completed now (and I have helped some people who were terminal get their Will properly executed before they died). But don’t wait for the last minute!
So let me give you a deadline. Get your properly executed Will completed by August 15 2019. Why then? That should give you about a month from the time you read this article. You likely have pondered your Will and have an idea of who your beneficiaries will be and who your executor and alternate executor will be. So get the basics on paper (or in your computer or tablet) and then arrange to have the information put in a properly executed Will. I’ll get back to what that means later in the article.
Some people think they do not need a Will. I can tell you that everyone needs a Will to specify who will be their legal representative. Who will be your executor? I need to have your signed authorization (your Will) appointing your executor so I can complete your final tax return; who will be responsible for it?
Without the Will, your taxes may not be fully complete (all income and deductions and credits) and it’s more likely something can get missed. With a Will in place, your executor (and the authorized representative like me), can deal with Canada Revenue Agency so the taxes are accurate and complete.
You also leave more burden to your family (or close friends) if you do not have a Will. Who will arrange your informal gathering (wine and cheese for me!) or more traditional funeral or memorial service? Or even just your cremation? What will be put in the obituary or death notice?
If you want some say in this and avoid family hardship, you need to appoint your executor to look after these things. And put it on paper what you want or don’t want. And share this info with your executor and family. Even if you have a spouse and/or children, you still need to appoint an executor (often your spouse). A properly executed Will makes it much easier for your spouse or children to deal with everything. Especially banks and credit unions. It can be difficult to deal with financial institutions without a properly executed Will.
If your situation is straightforward and you do not have complex items for your Will, you should easily meet your deadline (remember August 15 2019?). Regardless of simple or complex, get it done now!
Some people think they cannot afford to get a Will. Yes, most lawyers charge about $250 to $500 per person for the Will, Power of Attorney, and Health Care Directive. But I can say from the experience of my clients, it can be way more expensive to administer your estate if you do not have a Will and a family member has to apply to be the legal representative (in Manitoba called Letters of Administration). And it can take a lot longer to get everything done.
Earlier I mentioned the term “properly executed Will”. This means it has all the information needed to appoint your executor and an alternate. And it states who your beneficiaries are. But just as importantly, the Will has been witnessed properly. What does that mean? It means one of your witnesses has signed an affidavit of execution affirmed in front of a Commissioner for Oaths or Notary Public. One of your witnesses signs a document acknowledging the Will was signed by you and the other witness and you appeared to be of sound mind. And the back of the last page of the Will is documented properly. Lawyers do this at the time they draw up your Will. Although you do not need to have a lawyer to have a properly executed Will, it is recommended.
If you need to see me before your August 15 2019 deadline to review what you have in mind for your Will, I’d be happy to help you. And I can recommend some lawyers in the area, or what your other options are (and give you the pros and cons).
If you need some additional motivation or information, attend one of our upcoming Death Cafés. We plan to have two every month from July to October. Call our office for dates and times: 204.422.6631.
I have been “hosting” Death Cafés for a few years already and the feedback I get from participants is always excellent: “so much to learn from each other”, “information I didn’t know I needed to know”, “everyone should attend at least one”, “a warm comfortable environment to talk about things we need to know”, “I thought I had all my affairs in order, but there is more to do!”, “motivated me to talk with my family about my wishes and get it on paper”.
Remember your deadline: August 15 2019. Of course it’s ok if you give yourself a different deadline, but just get your Will done this summer! The sooner the better; the sooner you will be relieved that it is done!
Anni Markmann is a Personal Income Tax Professional and Certified Financial Planner; living, working, and volunteering in our community. Contact Ste Anne Tax Service at 204.422.6631 or 36 Dawson Road in Ste Anne (near Clearview Co-op) or firstname.lastname@example.org