Practical Reasons People Do Not Make Their Own Wills

Danny had questions about wills when he called my law office. My practical answer may help you decide how to make your own will.

Danny: I have to make a will and don’t know how. All my friends of my age say it’s easy. I have gone online and found so many websites. They offer will making services and free forms. Is it true I can make a will by myself? Will it be legal?

Ed: I should clear up the common misconception about making your will by yourself. There are more practical factors to consider when making a will.

The simple answer is that there is no legal requirement for you to make a will with a lawyer, Danny. But most people prefer to invest in a lawyer-prepared will.

There are many reasons why you may never get around to doing it yourself. I am not trying to sell you a will. Let me email you more reasons that you can share with your friends.

Here is the gist of the email I sent Danny.

1. Time – you are busy with your job and family. They take all of your time. You do not have extra time to do the research needed to make your own will. If it was a priority, you would have done it by now. That is the issue. It takes time to do things right.

You never know what an online source produces is guaranteed right for you. Who is qualified to prepare a valid will? Sure, they can ask you a standard checklist of basic questions such as:

  • Are you married or single?
  • What province do you live in?
  • Do you own a house?

But more importantly, can you ask anyone questions?

Here are things that are important to you like:

  • How do I make sure my children will have money to go to school?
  • Who should be my executor if I have no one I trust?
  • How can I save taxes?
  • What obligations do I have to my spouse or common law partner?
  • Can I do whatever I want with my money?

You can read my blog post to answer this last question, Honey is it Truly only Your Money?

2. Paperwork – most people make mistakes filling out simple forms. Making a will and having it properly signed is important. Mistakes you or your witnesses make can mean your will may not be legal.

If you make a will mistake, who knows about it? Usually nobody, until you are gone, that is. It is then too late for you to fix it. Your beneficiaries may then need to hire lawyers. Your relatives and their lawyers will need to see a judge. It will cost thousands to try and repair any mistakes. Some will mistakes can’t be repaired.

That would leave you without a will. Wasn’t that what you wanted to avoid in the first place?

Most people do not want to die without a will. You do not want to force your relatives to hire lawyers and go to court. Dying intestate or without a will passes all your estate burdens to them. Without an executor in your will no one has the power to pay your bills.

3. Advice – most people do not understand their legal obligations. When you make a will you deal with complex laws that change daily. These include family law, property, estate and tax laws.

You may think your situation is simple. But I find people want and need help when making important decisions.
Deciding who should be your executor or guardian for minor children is a complex decision. Most people need help understanding all their options. Only a lawyer can provide legal advice.

Using an online form to prepare your will does not help you with your specific questions or circumstances.
There other factors you need to consider as well, Danny.

Investing in a professional prepared will provides protection. Here are benefits to consider:

4. Security – knowing a professional has prepared your will. This gives you added comfort. You don’t have to worry about the what-ifs and if you’ve made a mistake.

5. Making an investment – will lawyers are available almost every price range. A lawyer-prepared will is an investment. Like insurance, it saves you money down the road. Spread the cost of a lawyer-prepared will over the years. The protection and comfort you receive costs pennies a day.

6. Comfort and peace of mind – your loved ones and property will be protected. You will need guidance from a professional if you:

  • own a business
  • share ownership of more than one property
  • are in a second marriage or common law relationship
  • have assets in more than one province
  • have minor children
  • your beneficiaries have special needs
  • charities count on your financial support
  • have a cherished pet to provide for

Make sure you get the right estate planning advice to make a will. Don’t leave it to chance or until you have the time to do it yourself. Get it done right.

Danny, resolve to invest your time in finding the right lawyer to help you. Then invest in a professionally-prepared will.

Edward Olkovich (BA, LLB, TEP, C.S.) is a nationally recognized estate expert. He is a Toronto estate lawyer and Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts Law. Edward has practiced law since 1978 and has written numerous estate books. Visit his blog, mrwills.com, for more free valuable information. (c) 2016

Every Estate Plan Needs One

Making your will is the foundation for all estate planning. You may think making a will is not important. But your loved ones certainly suffer if you don’t have a will. Let’s look at some tricks and truths about making your will.

Perhaps you haven’t made your will because you are:

  • confused by all your options;
  • need more information to make better decisions; and
  • do not know how to ask for help.

Let’s clear some of these things up. Postponing making a will does not make things easier. So let me tell you the best trick to know about wills.

The Trick to Wills is Having One

Here is what I have learned and why you should listen to me.

Years ago I wrote a couple of Complete Idiots’ Guides for Canadians. I wrote about wills, estates and estate planning. I did media interviews and spoke to audiences across Canada.

I was also the founding chair of Ontario’s Make-a-Will Campaign. The campaign explained the importance of estate planning and charitable gifts. We explained the benefits of a lawyer prepared will.

I sponsored radio shows and answered callers’ will questions. I even named my law firm website mrwills.com.

I am frequently interviewed as a will and estate expert.

I know the difficulties people have understanding wills. Here are the three most common questions I am asked:

  • Why do I need a lawyer to make a will?
  • Why are wills so important?
  • Why do I need to change my will?

Find a Will Lawyer

You want to invest in a lawyer prepared will. You can find lawyers in every price range. When you spread the cost over 5-10 years, it is reasonable. Compare it to your monthly cable TV bill to prove it.

But make sure you do a little homework. You want to find the right will lawyer. You need to prepare before you meet with your lawyer. Ask the lawyer what you must bring to the meeting.

Do you really need to prepare for such a meeting? Wouldn’t you prepare for any important business meeting or presentation?

Preparation will save you time and money. You can then get the right advice.

Making a Will Is Important

Even if you postpone more extensive estate planning, you should make a will. It is the most cost effective way to protect your loved ones. Read more about what happens if you die without a will at mrwills.com. Look up intestate and intestacy problems.

Your will can later be revised. A full estate plan may include trusts for minor children or beneficiaries with special needs. You need to consider insurance, powers of attorney and planning to reduce taxes.

A will is the best way to protect your family and heirs. When you make a will you can:

  • reduce taxes your family must pay
  • arrange for the smooth transfer of property (a family business, summer home) from one generation to another
  • arrange for the orderly transfer of your assets in an inexpensive way
  • avoid unnecessary delays
  • reduce legal costs

Don’t Leave Things to Chance

Many people think their spouses or children will automatically receive all their property. This is not true.

What happens if you die without a will? Honestly, you leave your loved ones with more pain. I have seen it add years of extra legal work in an estate.

Think of the added problems you create by not having a will. No one can sign your tax returns or confirm your funeral arrangements. How does anyone get access to your private information?

Unless you have a will and name an executor or estate trustee, no one is in charge.

In some cases, almost half of your estate can be eaten up by taxes. Unnecessary costs and delays can eat up even more.
All of these problems can be avoided. You can do it by investing in a will today.

What You Need to Know

Wills are not cut in stone so they are easy to change. You’ll want to update your will whenever you experience changes like:

  • you move to a new jurisdiction (provincial laws are different)
  • your relationships change (you marry, separate or divorce)
  • your assets change (you inherit or start a business)
  • the law changes your tax or financial obligations
  • you need new guardians, beneficiaries or executors

Wills are the cornerstone of your estate plan. If you do nothing else to protect your family, at least make a will.

A professional will is always your best investment.

You can’t afford to have an amateur make your will.

I hope this information helps you make your will.

You can get started right now.

The truth is it’s never too soon to make your will.

The truth is that simple.

Ed Olkovich

Edward Olkovich (BA, LLB, TEP, C.S.) is a Toronto estate lawyer and nationally recognized author. Ed is a Toronto based Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts. He can be reached through his web site, MrWills.com © 2014.

 

Do Zombies Need Estate Planning?

You might be a zombie…if you mindlessly expect:

  • the government to provide for your family when you die
  • your family will respect and understand your final wishes
  • you don’t know why you need a will and powers of attorney

Don’t walk around like the walking dead. Instead, use this checklist to assess your risk of being a Zombie.

Zombie Risk Checklist

Your loved ones are at risk because you have no estate plan. Use this checklist to find out if your loved ones are protected.
1. My loved ones know where my up-to-date will is stored.
Yes/No

2. I have backup executors or guardians named for minor children in my will.
Yes/No

3. I have legally appointed someone to handle decisions for me if I can’t.
Yes/No

4. I have a strategy in place to save probate and income taxes.
Yes/No

5. I have provided for loved ones with special needs.
Yes/No

6. I have a plan to deal with my business if I die.
Yes/No

7. I regularly review my estate plan to achieve my goals.
Yes/No

8. My RSPs and TFSAs are properly designated to avoid overpaying income taxes.
Yes/No

9. Life insurance has been arranged to pay for my children’s need.
Yes/No

If you have not answered “Yes” to all the questions, you need to take action.

Do Estate Planning for Those You Love

Zombies don’t have feelings. Zombies don’t need an estate plan.

Do you care about the people in your life? Then find the time to make a plan.

Imagine your estate as another word for your loved ones. If so, you’ll realize that taking simple estate planning steps will protect those you love.

Planning can avoid problems like an unnecessary estate sale. This can jeopardize everyone close to you. Let me explain this danger and how you can avoid it.

Estate Sales Are Dangerous

“Estate Sale” – what do you think of when you see these words? Most people expect a bargain. Families must sell assets to pay bills, taxes or to support themselves.

If you plan now, your loved ones can avoid an estate sale. I know you can avoid much pain and expense with a little planning. You can create your own estate plan for those you love. Start by asking yourself these questions:

• Where can I get information?
– local law society or bar association referral services
EstateTherapy.com
MrWills.com

• What decisions must I make?
– Who gets everything? (beneficiaries)
– Who should be in charge? (attorneys and executors)
– Who should act as my backups? (back up beneficiaries, attorneys and executors)

• What action do I need to take?
– Find an estate lawyer
– Book a consultation
– Sign your will and powers of attorney

Read my FREE 7 keys to estate planning success.

Estate to the Heart by Edward Olkovich EstateTherapy dot com - Copyright 2014

 

You can find more answers by downloading a copy of Estate to the Heart. I wrote this easy-to-read guide to plan wills and estates for your loved ones. It is filled with practical checklists to avoid Zombie estate planning.

 

 

 

About Ed

Edward Olkovich (BA, LLB, TEP, and C.S.) is an Ontario lawyer, nationally recognized author and estate expert. He is a Toronto based Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts. Ed’s law firm website is MrWills.com © 2014

Do You Want These Advantages from Estate Planning?

What motivates you to get going?

Sometimes the weather gets us down and sometimes it’s our attitude. Sometimes you need a little help to get started.

My approach looks at advantages. I motivate people to focus on the advantages they want. You may find this works for you as well.

Charles B. needed help. He lost his wife and tennis partner of 39 years. He was, very understandably, sad. He was not motivated to tackle anything, let alone an update to his estate plan.

“It’s too depressing to think about.” Charles said.

“Well Charles,” I said, “Try something different. Let’s look at the advantages. Tell me what you want to do for your family and I’ll help you get started.”

Estate Planning Goals

Which advantages would you (and Charles) want to enjoy?

  • Save money on taxes – less of your money is spent paying too much in taxes.
  • Place the right person in charge – you need to trust someone to carry out your wishes. This ensures the jobs you need done are done right.
  • Protect young people – make sure you set up a trust to help secure the future for young people.
  • Reduce the costs of probate – without an up-to-date will your family may be forced into a court battle.
  • Avoid family disagreements among family members – help minimize the risk of this happening by spelling out your wishes.
  • Support your favourite charitable causes – continue to make a difference after you’re gone. Giving a gift to charity in your will can also help reduce taxes.

“Can I have more than one goal?” Charles asked.

“Certainly. You can choose a couple.” I said. “We can create an estate plan to meet your wishes and goals. A cornerstone to your estate plan is making your will. Without a will to reflect your goals, there’s bound to be disagreement.”

“My family gets along. I don’t think we need to worry about that.” Charles said.

“Perhaps not,” I said. “But you do need a will to specify your wishes. Your executor carries out your wishes. You need to choose your executor.”

I told Charles I have seen too many situations where children say:

  • “My father wanted me to be in charge”;
  • “I’m the oldest so it is my job and duty”; and
  • “Dad told me what he wanted”.

So, why leave things to chance?

If you do not have a will, the government writes one for you. The government is not interested in minimizing your taxes. They have inflexible rules that do not respect your family’s special needs. These rules can add years to the process of probating your estate.

Years of your hard work, investing your assets and saving money can be squandered by that process. Beneficiaries may have to wait years after you’re gone to receive the full benefit of your estate.

An estate plan can reduce taxes, continue your charitable works and even protect your pets.

Your family can struggle after you are gone.

But they do not have to.

Give your family all the advantages you can with a professionally-prepared estate plan.

About Ed

Edward Olkovich (BA, LLB, TEP, and C.S.) is an Ontario lawyer, nationally recognized author and estate expert (MrWills.com). He is a Toronto based Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts. Edward has practiced law since 1978 and is the author of Executor Kung Fu: Master Any Estates in Three Easy Steps. © 2014

Have You Had Enough?

When it comes to money, you know there are Haves and Have-nots. Here’s something that may surprise you: when it comes to estate planning, it does not matter how much stuff you have. I have learned you can fall into a different category.

When it comes to helping your loved ones, which category do you fall into?

Are you a ‘Have’?

Many people think, “I have no money or wealth to worry about. Estate planning is not for me.”

These ‘haves’ tell me they’ve had enough – enough information about their rights and obligations. They have an aversion to talking about death. They tell me, “It’s so negative and depressing, Ed. Let’s talk about something else”.

Well, I say, “Estate planning is what you do for the people you leave behind. You really do it for them. You want whatever you have to go to your loved ones. You don’t want it to be wasted on lawyers’ fees. Do you really want to pay more taxes than you need to?”

They respond like this:

  • I ‘have’ nothing to fight over when I go.
  • Who cares about all this when I am gone? The laws dealing with property, trusts, estates, wills, income taxes and family law will not ‘have’ anything to do with me.
  • My family is not dysfunctional. I ‘have’ no problems in my family. Everyone does what is expected of them.
  • Please prepare a simple will for me. ‘Have’ it ready for me to sign tomorrow. I’m leaving the country on holiday right after I sign it. Otherwise, I’ll find a sample will online. It’s all the same to me.
  • I ‘have’ to sign a will and powers of attorney right now, I cannot wait. I don’t understand why I cannot get what I want. What is the matter with lawyers, anyway? You want to know too much about me when I ‘have’ nothing.

Are you a ‘Have-not’?

Seems Have-nots always need more information. They have not made a decision about a guardian for their minor children. Sure, their children are not teenagers yet. They think they have plenty of time left.

The Have-nots see no reason to rush their decisions.  They are perfectionists. They wish to have all the information necessary (without going to law school). They do not trust anyone to make their financial decisions for them. They ‘have not’ developed any trusting relationship with a lawyer or financial advisor. They will go back to your website over and over again looking for more free information. They ‘have not’ yet finished researching. They keep skimming websites that may not be applicable or appropriate for them.

They search online for answers to questions like:

  • My son lives in Hong Kong. What are the income tax consequences under those laws if he inherits?
  • What if my son divorces his spouse in Hong Kong? Will she be entitled to a share of his inheritance?
  • Will my son have to pay income tax on executor’s fees in Canada and Hong Kong?

Have-nots can’t make a decision until all these questions are answered. The trouble is it is stopping them from protecting their loved ones from a disaster.

So, are you a Have or a Have-not?

You don’t want to become a desperate estate planner, either. I tell you all about those in the next post.

You may also enjoy reading Estate to the Heart: How to Plan Wills and Estates for Your Loved Ones. This book is only available via my website www.MrWills.com.

About Ed

Edward Olkovich (BA, LLB, TEP, and C.S.) is an Ontario lawyer, nationally recognized author and estate expert. He is a Toronto based Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts. Edward has practiced law since 1978 and is the author of Executor Kung Fu: Master Any Estates in Three Easy Steps. © 2014

 

Do You Want These Estate Planning Benefits?

Estate planning may not save lives, but it provides important benefits.

Your estate plan makes a difference to the people you care about. You can also benefit your favourite charitable causes.

Today, I’ll cover the three key benefits of estate planning.

1. Estate plans provide protection

Your spouse and children will need you to protect them when you are gone.

Having a professionally prepared will provides a proper transition for your loved ones. You can make sure they remain in their home, fund their education or pay off a mortgage.

Do you believe you don’t have enough money to achieve such goals?

Think again.

Life insurance can create an instant estate to satisfy your wishes. Tax-free life insurance benefits play a key role in everyone’s estate plan.

You can also, inexpensively, create a trust in a professionally prepared will.  Setting up a trust is a complex tax and estate tool. It is not a project for a do-it-yourself will kit.

Trustees or executors named in your will can manage inheritances for:

  • minor children;
  • a second spouse in a blended family situation; and
  • a spendthrift beneficiary unable to handle money.

Are there charitable causes that depend on you? Your charitable donation can help a local shelter save animals. Cancer, heart and stroke research and foundations also rely on your donations.

2. Estate plans reduce expenses

On top of that, you can minimize some income taxes your family would otherwise have to pay. Using your RSP or RIF to donate, you can save taxes on your registered plans. You can also receive a tax credit.  You’ll need professional advice on the tax rules that apply to you personally.

A proper estate plan will transfer your money to loved ones at a low cost.  Your plan can reduce or eliminate probate costs, income tax and legal fees. This trio can otherwise devour a small estate.

Do some homework for your estate plan. You will need professional advice. Don’t rely on tips from a bank teller or your beer buddies.

You can find low-cost ways to transfer ownership of your assets. This can help avoid probate. You’ll leave more money for your loved ones. Probate of a simple estate can take 1-3 years. Imagine the substantial saving of time and expenses proper transfers can achieve.

3. Estate plans put the right person in charge

You choose who is in control of your estate. Do not assume your family will know what to do if you are suddenly out of the picture.

You must name an executor or estate trustee in your will.  This person will be in charge, so choose wisely. You can authorize someone to operate your business. You can spell out who sells it or continues to operate it.

What if you don’t have a great deal of money, property and assets? You can still benefit from having an estate plan.

Your plan should include, at least, a will and powers of attorney.

You name a person authorized to close your bank accounts, pay for your funeral and deal with your final tax bill.

Powers of Attorney for Property and Personal Care can protect you and your money while you are still alive.

Get these legal documents for your estate plan. You will have your own lifebuoy.

About Ed

Edward Olkovich (BA, LLB, TEP, and C.S.) is an Ontario lawyer, nationally recognized author and estate expert. He is a Toronto based Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts. Edward has practiced law since 1978 and is the author of Executor Kung Fu: Master Any Estates in Three Easy Steps. Visit www.ExecutorSchool.com © 2013