TIME FOR AN ATTITUDE CHECK?
- by Andrew Hawryluk
- September 23, 2021
Covid-19 has changed a lot of things – some of them for the worse. But it also changed many of us for the better.
Consider people’s attitude towards their will, for example. According to a survey done by Legalwills.ca in February 2021, Covid-19 influenced 53% of respondents to write or update their will in the preceding 12 months.
I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch to conclude that the pandemic helped many folks get more acquainted with the idea of their mortality, and the desire not to cause their family any grief – due to a lack of proper planning – in addition to that over their passing.
Sure enough, the survey revealed that 66% of respondents said that writing their will was something they had intended to do for a while. The pandemic helped them overcome their procrastination, in other words.
What exactly are the consequences of not having your will in order?
I will answer that question with a few questions:
- How would you like the courts to decide what happens to what you built and saved?
- How would you feel about your family arguing bitterly over what you truly intended and who gets what?
- How would you like the CRA to get more of your money – potentially a lot more – than is actually necessary?
Probably not so good. So: to avoid these unpleasant scenarios (which happen all too often), here’s what you need to do:
Kind of obvious, but get your will done.
It has been said that “done is better than perfect,” and I agree – sort of. Because it has also been said that “perfect is even better than done” – and retaining your lawyer to prepare your will, with us in a supporting role, will get you there. To trot out even another old saying, there is no time like the present. So do it now.
Be very, very clear about the details.
Whatever your wishes may be, they must be expressed clearly and cannot be left to interpretation. Clearly express your wishes in a way that ensures YOU get the final word on who gets what – and not the probate courts, which the pandemic has backed up more than ever, as it happens, which will make the process even more drawn out and difficult on your heirs.
Make sure the person or entity you name as beneficiary is actually whom you want it to be.
In a recent Ontario court case, one brother was named by his late mother as the sole beneficiary of his mother’s RRIF – unbeknownst to his three siblings. The siblings tried to overturn the beneficiary designation, and failed. As the judge in this case declared, “The whole point of a beneficiary designation…is to specifically state what is to happen to an asset upon death.”
And, in the event that your primary beneficiaries are no longer alive when the time comes, ensure you have indicated contingent beneficiaries or successor holders.
Revisit your will every few years, or whenever there’s a material life change – whichever comes first.
Wills are not a “one and done” matter. Your life is destined to change, your situation is destined to change, and it is always possible that your intentions will change. That’s what makes it so important to revisit your will every few years – especially those beneficiary designations – to see if changes to it are warranted. All too often, for example, an ex-spouse is still named on a will, RRSP or other registered investment after a divorce – and the current spouse is shut out of that asset.
Express your wishes by conducting a family meeting.
It may not be comfortable. It may not be fun. But having a family meeting to frankly share your wishes is more than worth going through.
Receiving professional advice, which is a service we provide our clients here at Surround, is always a constructive idea when organizing your meeting.
Just do it.
Don’t wait. Please. On any of the above. We are here and ready to help. All you have to do is ask.