You have probably heard repeatedly that there are few financial aspects of your life more important than having a valid, up-to-date will. The estate lawyers at DBM warn that should you die without a will – legally called dying “intestate” – than your assets could be distributed in ways you did not intend. This is especially important if you have minor children, since if you die intestate than their guardian will be chosen by the court instead of who you want. To have a say in what happens after you pass away, your intentions must be written in a document such as a will or estate plan.
So, now that you have joined the 50% of Canadians who, according to Canadian Legal Wills, have actually created a will, you’re good to go, right?
Life continues to happen, and that means change. There are a number of life-changing events that should prompt you to change your estate plan.
- Change in relationships: Marriage, divorce, separation. If you get married, divorced or separated, you should not procrastinate about changing your estate plan. This applies not only to your will or living trust, but also to assets outside of these documents, such as retirement assets, life insurance and savings bonds, as well as joint bank accounts, brokerage accounts and real estate.
You want to make sure your spouse gets everything she is entitled to. Should that relationship end, you may want to shift your assets to other family members or put them in trust for minor children. This is what you can direct your will to address.
Asset division after a divorce can be very complicated if you do not leave a will and estate plan specifying your wishes.
- Becoming a parent or grandparent. For many people who start a family, this is the first time they consider doing a will, trust or estate plan. Perhaps the most important part of a will for parents is naming a guardian for your children and providing for them financially in case something happens to you. Make sure you appoint a legal guardian who will care for your children should there be no other parent.
In the joy of a grandchild’s birth, whether it’s your first or your 15th, “revise estate plan” might not be the first item on your to-do list. But when the excitement dies down, you want to make sure your wishes for your newest descendent are known. This is particularly important if the child’s parents die before you.
- Bad health. It’s not something that anyone expects, but the hard truth is that it can, and does, happen. A diagnosis of a degenerative disease or terminal illness can be devastating to families. Even amid the uncertainty and shock of the situation, some people take comfort in getting their affairs – their estate plans – in order. This is the time to have your lawyer review any documents and bring them up to date.
John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans.” As you experience life-changing events – good and bad – make sure you are protecting the people you love. DBM has the expertise and experience to guide you in preparing your will and estate plan, so your wishes will be carried out without trouble. And that should bring you some measure of peace of mind.