Fall is a traditional time to create or update your Will

Wheat-harvestPerhaps it is the instinct to create a cache to last through winter, or an ancient memory of the abundance of harvest time, or the family focus of events like Thanksgiving and Halloween. Whatever the motivation, many people take time in the Fall to look after longer term things. If you find yourself reflecting at this time of year about where you’ve been and where you are going, what you want out of life, your relationships and future, you are not alone.

That reflective process should naturally include thinking about your will. If you don’t have a will, you want one. There are many good reasons for having a will, the best of which is that it will help those you leave behind put your things in order. If you already have a will, you may want to think about what has changed in your life since you made it.

To give you an idea of what is involved in making a will, here are some basics:

1. The key element of every will is who is named as your Executor, that is, who will be responsible for wrapping up your affairs. And if you have children under 18, who will be named their Guardian.

2. You need to have a general idea of what you want to do with your things. (All to my spouse/partner, to the kids equally, X dollars to cousin Charlie/Médecins sans frontières or whatever, etc.)

3. Many people get stuck thinking you have to list all your assets. You don’t. It is a good idea to have such a list but most wills deal with your assets in a global way.

4. Think about any special things have and what you want done with them, things like family heirlooms (precious or not) or things of sentimental value.

5. Also give some thought to any special burial or funeral arrangements you may want.

Once you have a good idea about the above, a draft of your will can be prepared, which forms the basis for a more detailed discussion. Often things come up in conversation, wrinkles (big or small) that require special consideration and advice. These are the things that make your will uniquely yours.

The process of making the will usually involves:

1. An initial meeting to receive the above information and discuss the general shape of the will. (Yes, we make house calls for initial meetings.)

2. Preparing a draft of the will and reviewing it with you for corrections and changes. Usually this can be done by email and may involve several exchanges.

3. Once the will is finalized, meeting again at our office for signing before witnesses. This is a key moment and must be supervised to avoid errors.

Our research shows that the average cost for a “simple” will in Ontario is around $350. So that is where we set our base fee. If things are more complicated and more advice is needed, or preparation is taking an inordinate amount of time (it happens), we watch our hours and will discuss fees with you.

Finally, we recommend that you add two things to your will:

A Power of Attorney for Property is useful in case you are incapacitated. Without one, the Province may take control of your property, creating a painful and protracted experience for your family and friends. A PoA for Property can also be useful in emergencies, e.g., if you are out of the country and some property matter needs to be dealt with.

A Power of Attorney for Personal Care does the same thing but for matters of your health and living situaton in the event you are incapacitated. We recommend an additional document to accompany the PoA for Personal Care, an Advance Care Directive (sometimes called a “living will”). These two documents empower someone to make decisions for you about health care, to ensure you are cared for in the way and to the extent you wish.

Of course, you can also do your own will. Search “self-counsel wills Ontario” or “wills forms Ontario”. (The Ontario part is important because laws vary from Province to Province.) But in our experience, many people need answers to questions and a helping hand to complete a proper, legal will.

fall-bounty1-300x199

And by all means, do your homework. The better informed you are, the more rewarding the experience will be and the better your will and PoAs will come out.

Some excellent advice about things to watch out for here: http://www.torontoestatemonitor.com/estate-planning/some-estate-planning-mistakes-to-avoid/

…referring to this informative article in the Globe & Mail: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/personal-finance/household-finances/a-legal-will-is-worth-the-time-and-money/article2153661/