There is a common misconception that if you don’t have a lot of assets or if your assets are held jointly with your spouse, you don’t need a will. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Wills have the power to do a lot more than simply set out your wishes for your assets. Also, if your spouse passes away before you, or if you both pass away at the same time, then it is important to have a will in place to determine what will become of those joint assets.
Guardianship of your children
If you have children, perhaps the most important function of a will is to dictate who you would like to act as a guardian of your children should you pass away while they are minors and there is no other parent alive or able to fulfill that role.
If you are young and in good health, you may believe this to be a remote possibility, but consider the risk if you pass away without appointing a guardian for your minor children: the Public Guardian and Trustee, as well as the Ministry of Children and Family Development, would then have to step in to take care of your children, with the former responsible for your children’s financial and legal affairs and the latter responsible for your children’s health, education and upbringing. If, at that point, a family member or friend wanted guardianship, they would have to go through the hassle, expense and uncertainty of a court application.
Care of your pets
In a similar vein, a will also allows you to make provisions for any pets you may own at the time of your death, including who you would like to take care of them and any particular wishes you may have for their care, lifestyle and medical treatment. Your will can also provide the caretaker of your pets with a monetary gift to assist them with caring for your pets.
Set up trusts
If you have, for example, minor children or an adult dependent who is not able to provide for themself, you can, within your will, set up a trust fund for them to be administered in any manner that you specify. You can even create a trust fund dedicated to the care of your pets.
Sentimental and digital assets
When thinking about your assets, it is quite natural to think only of those assets with inherent monetary value. However, for you and your loved ones, your most valuable possessions may be those with little monetary value, such as family heirlooms. A will allows you to specify what you would like to be done with these items.
In this day and age, it is also important to make provisions for your digital assets – things such as precious family photos that may exist only on your computer, your email and social media accounts, and any cryptocurrencies that you may hold.
A will allows you to set out any particular funeral wishes you may have. As a starting point, you may indicate a preference for burial or cremation, specify where you would like to be buried or have your ashes scattered, and what type of funeral service (if any) you would like and how extravagant or simple.
Executor of your estate
Wrapping up an estate after someone’s death can be, regardless of the extent of assets, a lot of work.
At the most basic level, debts must be paid, bank accounts closed, credit card companies notified, utilities cut, car insurance cancelled, taxes filed, and all personal possessions dealt with. A will allows you to name a person (or persons) you trust to wrap up these affairs.
Without a will that nominates an executor, anyone who would like to administer your estate would have to apply to the court; otherwise, your affairs will be left in the hands of the Public Guardian and Trustee.
If you have questions about creating or updating your estate plan, North Shore Law would be pleased to assist you. Please contact Angie Brar at firstname.lastname@example.org or 604.982.4015 for more information.