By Jody Pihl, BComm, LLB
A specifically tailored will provides peace of mind with clear instructions regarding your wishes and the needs of your heirs.
A will is the best way to ensure that the people, charities, and organizations you cherish most receive the benefit of your estate. Your will is also your last communication with your family and friends and your opportunity to leave clear instructions on how you want your assets to be handled and how you want your legacy and final wishes to be carried out. Without a will, the courts decide who gets what, without regard to your wishes or your heirs’ needs, and your estate may not be distributed in the way you would have wished. Having a will is also important to avoid the higher costs, avoidable delays, and even potential squabbling among family members as to who gets which parts of the estate.
Making a will is especially important for people with young children, because wills are the best way to transfer guardianship of minors and to provide instructions on their care, as well as how and when the parents want the children to receive their inheritance.
As each person has a unique family and asset picture, their wills should be specifically drafted for their needs. Beware of “one size fits all” will tools, which fail to address the unique family profile of each client. The resulting will may not meet your estate planning needs or may not accurately reflect your wishes. Notaries provide will services and may be a good option for individuals who require a very simple will. However, it must be understood that notaries are unable to provide the same depth of legal knowledge and advice that a lawyer can provide for more complex situations.
A solid will and estate plan is a good investment. The cost to have a will written depends on the complexity of your situation. In the event that a dispute arises with respect to the validity of your will or your estate, litigation costs in BC Supreme Court often exceed $50,000. So it is prudent to ensure you invest in and receive quality advice at the time you make your will to avoid much more significant costs later.
When you prepare your will, it is a very good time to consider some other key legal planning documents including a Power of Attorney, a Representation Agreement and/or an Advance Health Care Directive. These are documents that name another person to have authority to make financial, legal, personal care and/or health care related decisions for you while you are alive.
It is also important to remember that once you make a will, it is advisable to review it regularly to make sure it reflects your circumstances.
The Wills, Estates and Succession Act (WESA) came into force on March 31, 2014. WESA streamlines seven acts into one act, provides greater certainty for individuals who put their last wishes into writing, simplifies the process for those responsible for distributing an estate, and clarifies the process for distributing estates where there is no will.
WESA does not invalidate wills written before March 31, 2014. However, some of the laws about interpreting wills have changed, so individuals may wish to review their existing will with a lawyer to make sure their wishes can be upheld.
New probate rules also come into effect with the act. Government worked closely with the Supreme Court and the BC Law Institute to ensure British Columbia has a set of rules that work for both the public and the courts. These rules will ensure consistency for probate applicants and streamline court processes to provide more timely service for British Columbians.
Jody Pihl, BComm, LLB, is a lawyer at Pihl Law Corporation who offers a full range of legal services in the area of wills, estates and succession planning, including the preparation of wills and trusts, estate planning, powers of attorney, representation agreements, and planned giving. Her relaxed and considerate approach helps her understand each client’s unique circumstance and specific planning needs. For more information, contact Jody at 250-762-5434, firstname.lastname@example.org, or find her online at www.pihl.ca.
*Reprint from our Summer 2016 Issue