What do Jimi Hendrix, Pablo Picasso, Prince, Howard Hughes and Michael Jackson all have in common? They all died without a valid will. But they weren’t unusual. An Angus Reid poll found that 51% of Canadians do not have a will, and 35% of respondents said they had one, but it was outdated.

There are three main considerations if you pass without a valid will.

Confusion and Expense

When you die, your bank accounts are frozen until an estate trustee is appointed. This is simple if there is a Will that has named an executor. Without a will, family or friends of the deceased, would be required to apply for the role. If more than one applies, this can turn into an expensive fight, for everyone involved.

Loss of Control

If you die without a will, your estate is distributed to a set of beneficiaries pre-determined by legislation. This formula has nothing to do with what you might have stated verbally (or promised to certain people) to be your intentions. A portion of your estate may go to people you would not have had on your distribution list.

Leaving a Legacy of Confusion and Conflict

In the absence of a will, all beneficiaries of the same class will receive the same distribution. That means that the cousin from Germany you’ve met twice in your life will receive the same distribution as the cousin who you grew up with and helped you so much in your lifetime. This can cause significant family disagreements and conflict.

High net worth individuals have generally lived a very planned and considered life. It would be a shame if, on their death, their estate wasn’t distributed with the same care and consideration. This is not the legacy that most would want to leave.

Everyone over the age of majority should have a will. The complexity of the document depends on the estate but regardless, the process of creating a will needn’t be difficult or time consuming. It usually requires two meetings with a lawyer.

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This WARDS LAWYERS PC publication is for general information only. It is not legal advice, nor is it intended to be. Specific or more information may be necessary before advice could be provided for your particular circumstances.

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