As you may have already heard, November is Make a Will Month.
Every year, the Ontario Bar Association makes it their mission to educate Canadians on the importance of having a will by hosting free events across Ontario. It’s a great way for people to have their questions answered by professionals.
To many, it may seem like estate planning is something they don’t have to think about yet. A will is just another piece of paper that will sit around collecting dust for years to come. This is far from the truth.
“Ultimately, it is one of – if not – the most important documents you can have.” - Hummingbird Lawyers
Canadian wills by the numbers
According to recent statistics, half of Canadians (51%) say they have no last will and testament in place. Of those who do, only one-third of them (35%) say they have one that is up to date.
While half of Canadians do have a will, it can cause major issues if it hasn’t been updated.
Relationships can shift and change over the years. You may have promised one family member that antique gold vase 10 years ago, but have since fallen out and promised to give it to someone else instead. Unclear or out of date wills can lead to family strife or even litigation. Major life events like marriage can require you to make a new will.
On the other side of the issue are those who believe they don’t need a will at all:
“A significant number say the reason they haven’t written a will is that they’re “too young” to worry about it (25%), and almost as many say they don’t have enough assets to make a will worthwhile (23%).” - Angus Reid Institute poll
When you die intestate
When you die without a will, it’s called dying “intestate.” Simply put, this means that your estate may not be divided up how you would have wanted. Your estate is instead divided up for you according to the formula laid out in the Succession Law Reform Act (SLRA).
That may not seem so bad until you realize that their formula doesn’t take into account personal relationships to different people. Did you have a child to whom you hadn’t spoken in years, but an incredibly kind and helpful neighbour with whom you’d formed a close friendship? Without your will to say otherwise, that estranged child will get part of your estate, and your loyal friend will receive nothing.
This isn’t an uncommon problem. Given the stats above, this could be the situation for over half of Canadians today.
Even famous people with significantly more complex estates fall into this trap.
One much-publicized example is Prince, whose estate was estimated to be worth $300 million, who died without a will. The most recent of those stars Aretha Franklin, whose estate is estimated to be worth $80 million, also died intestate.
To read more about Ontario’s intestacy laws, check out our overview here.
Make a Will Month seminars
There are numerous events run by the Ontario Bar Association taking place this month. Here are a few that are upcoming:
Location: Scarborough Civic Centre branch
Date: November 19, 6:30pm - 8:30pm
Ontario Bar Association’s Speakers Bureau
Location: Toronto Public Library - Lillian H. Smith
Date: November 13, 6:30 - 8:30pm
Location: Toronto Public Library - Fairview Branch
Date: November 14, 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Location: Toronto Public Library - Riverdale Library
Date: November 22, 6:30pm – 8:30pm
To read about our Knowledge of a Will notices, check out our blog post, here.