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“Legal” Doesn’t Necessarily Mean “Effective”

Jarrett McKay - May 01, 2017
Most people will agree that preparing a will is important. Writing a legal will on your own is not difficult these days. In fact, you can get help from many sources to "do it yourself". But the big concern on your mind should be the effectiveness of

Most people will agree that preparing a will is important. Writing a legal will on your own is not difficult these days. In fact, you can get help from many sources to "do it yourself". But the big concern on your mind should be the effectiveness of such a document, not its legality.

 

Are you an expert on the complexities of family law and the succession rules of your province, not to mention Canadian income tax and investment rules, or even the current U.S. estate tax rules? If not, creating your own will may be in the same league as attempting to conduct surgery on yourself — possible, but probably quite risky and with potential future consequences.

 

Nevertheless, it is curious how many people think that their affairs are so simple that they need not have an expert advise them on their last instructions. They may forget that the value of their assets can easily total several million dollars today. Make one mistake in phrasing an instruction and it could cost thousands of dollars in unnecessary taxes, for example.

 

Most people want to be fair with their heirs and an experienced lawyer will advise on common pitfalls to avoid. Those familiar with family discussions after a death will attest to how easily bitter disagreements and pitched battles can arise among siblings. These can involve perceived inequities in allocations of money and even the distribution of personal effects — like who is to get the family piano!

 

If you have used the assistance of a professional in the past to prepare your will, the effectiveness of the will may also be in question if it has not been kept up-to-date.

 

Life changing events such as marriage, separation or divorce or the birth of a child may require a will to be updated. Other circumstances such as the disability of a child, death of an executor/beneficiary, disposition or acquisition of assets or even changes in debt or tax positions may also affect the estate and require changes to the will.

 

Resolve to give your assets the respect they deserve in your will. Prepare for your succession properly, with professional advice, and ensure your will reflects your current circumstances.

 

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