Over the past few years, The Ontario Bar Association has declared November “Make A Will Month”, and encourages everyone to write a will and choose a power of attorney.
“The Ontario Bar Association (OBA) started make a will month, because, as lawyers, we were really concerned about the large population of Canadians that don’t have wills,” said Kathryn Balter, wills and estates lawyer and OBA member.
She added, “This year we are really focused on getting out the word, about why you need a will, and also powers of attorney.”
According to a LawPRO survey, a majority of Canadians do not have a signed will, and 71 per cent of Canadian adults do not have a signed power of attorney.
There are two types of powers of attorney, one is a power of attorney over property and the other is a power of attorney over personal care.
A power of attorney is when someone appoints a close friend or family member to look after their property or personal care, when they are no longer capable of doing so.
If a power of attorney is never selected and someone’s health deteriorates, the courts assign someone to manage their properties and personal care, which can be expensive.
“It’s a lot less expensive to draft that document now, and make your choice about who you feel comfortable with, in making those important decisions about managing your money,” Kathryn said.
In addition to a power of attorney, writing a will is very important, to ensure your money gets divided properly amongst your loved ones.
“By writing a will you get to control what happens to your assets, you can make specific gifts to people, you can choose the person who is going to take care of your estate, and you can name custodians for your minor children, which is a big reason why people come in and make wills a lot of the time.”
If a will is not written before passing away, the Ontario Law Succession Act decides how the property will be distributed to the surviving relatives. If a person dies without a will and is a parent to minor children, any money they get will have to be taken to court and they may not have access to it. Kathryn said its never a great circumstance in those situations.
“Having a will and power of attorney can save families a lot of heartache. I was formerly an estate litigator, before being an estate planner, and I’ve seen what happens when people, either, don’t have a will or don’t have one that was done professionally,” Kathryn said.
“So it is very important for people to go through the exercise, have these discussions, consult with a lawyer, and have an estate plan put into place.”
There is no minimum age to writing a will, anyone who is aware of who they want to benefit from their estate, should have one.
Kathryn said, “You could be 21 or you could be 75, it doesn’t matter, a will is important for you.”
It doesn’t have to be expensive either, there are many wills and estates lawyers of all experience levels in Canada.
“There are lawyers all across Ontario doing this, and they all come at different price points. So, speak with a lawyer, and talk about what they can provide, for what amount. There is definitely a price point for every person,” Kathryn said.
She encourages everyone who has not written a will or assigned a power of attorney, to contact their lawyer and arrange an appointment. It may be a difficult topic to think about, but it make’s a world of difference for loved ones, when a will is properly written.