Writing your own will is hard. It's hard because you don't know whether you should leave your electric car to John or Susan.
It's hard because you don't know whether your grandchildren should get a cut of your children's inheritance.
It's hard because it's the delicate topic of your death.
It's hard, but it's essential to have these thoughts and take action now.
Writing your will is crucial, but so is proper estate pre-planning. Thinking about possible estate taxes and ensuring your investments are going to the right hands is also important. Contact a professional today if you're looking to get assistance with the pre-planning of your estate.
There are many myths surrounding the writing of your own will. Whether you have a will or you're looking to write your own now, these myths can be so widespread that it's difficult to figure out what is fact.
We've looked into some of the most common myths surrounding writing your own will. These will help you feel more comfortable with the process:
Myth #1: You have to include everything when writing your own will
Writing a will is overwhelming. It's a lot of information. It's never-ending because you have so much - stuff! Well, the good news is, you don't have to include all of the stuff. You won't be writing an inventory list of all of the things in your home. Focus instead on the things that are valuable to you.
Of course, you'll have to make some tough decisions, but these are important decisions. Decisions that could affect the lives of your family members. The future of your kids. And the likelihood of passing your great-grandmother's ring down to "just the right" family member.
So what should be included in your will? What you own (assets) and what you owe (liabilities), as well as a few other specifics, including:
Guardians for your Children
Asset distribution details (including specific gifts)
List of Liabilities
List of Beneficiaries
Powers of Attorney
Many people think you need to include exactly how much money you have in your will. This is where most people get overwhelmed. Instead, get a general sense of your assets and decide who will get a share of your estate. It's common for wills to state an individual's share in assets instead of a specific amount. Keep it simple.
Myth #2: Include your funeral arrangements when writing your own will
As you start thinking about your will and your assets. You will likely think about what you want your funeral to be like. Who will be there? What will you look like? Should you be cremated? Or buried?
As much as you think your will should contain these arrangements, that's not true. In most cases, your loved ones will not see the will until after your funeral. After the arrangements have been planned, and the funeral itself has come and gone.
It's best to include your funeral arrangement details in a separate document. A separate document that your loved ones are aware of and can review as soon as you've passed away. The funeral arrangement document could also contain other important information such as:
the location of your will
body/organ donation information
your pre-planned obituary
your last message
This final document can come in many forms. Although it's not legally binding, it will surely help relieve some stress on your family members to get things organized shortly after your death.
Want to set out your funeral arrangements and get organized? An online will service provider called LegalWills.ca has an excellent template for this document here.
Myth #3: I'm too young to have a will
Most people put off writing their will. They think they shouldn't have one because they don't have many assets and don't have children. If you're over 18, you're not too young to write your will.
Most people want to avoid the cost of creating a will and therefore put it off for as long as possible. The good news is that many low-cost options are now available to assist you in writing your own will. Of course, if you have a complicated estate, speaking to a lawyer is always a good option, but it's not required (we'll get into this more below).
Your will is a living document. Once you create your will, you can update it as your life develops. As you have kids, build wealth, and purchase your new home. The best time to write your own will is now.
Myth #4: I don't need a will because my spouse will get everything anyway
This is only half true.
In Ontario, when you die intestate (meaning without a will), the Succession Law Reform Act sets out how your estate will be distributed. Under this law, your spouse and closest next-of-kin will inherit your estate.
Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions is if you're not married and you die intestate (meaning without a will), your common-law spouse will not inherit any part of your estate under this Act. So, make sure you're covered by drafting your own will.
Myth #5: Wills are only valid if created with a lawyer
This is one of the ultimate myths of will writing. Many people think that you have to write your will with a lawyer, resulting in costly legal fees. Although many people may benefit from legal advice in their situation, there is no legal requirement to have a lawyer involved in creating your will.
You can write your will in a Microsoft Word document on your computer. You can write your own will on a napkin at a coffee shop. Or, better yet, you can write your will using one of the new snazzy will writing platforms such as Epilogue, LegalWills.ca, or Willful.
You must meet some requirements to ensure a will is valid under the Succession Law Reform Act. Some of which include:
Being over 18 years of age as per s. 8(1) of the Act
The testator must sign the will as per s. 4(2) of the Act
The will must be signed and witnessed by two or more valid witnesses present simultaneously as per s. 4(2) of the Act
The above requirements are the most basic requirements for validity. It's also necessary to ensure that the witnesses chosen are valid (and are not gaining anything from the estate). There's also a requirement that the testator writes the will in a sound mind. The testator must also write the will without undue influence from another individual.
If you're looking to confirm the validity of your will, it's always best to seek legal advice.
It's wise to complete your estate planning well in advance. This will give you the time to honestly think about your wishes and how you would like to write your own will.
This post should clarify any confusion about the myths surrounding writing your own will. So, get to it! Are there any myths we missed? Let us know in the comments.