What really happens if you die without a will?
Most people spend their adult lives trying to protect what they’ve worked for - to preserve wealth for their future and the future of their loved ones. Now imagine if you were to suddenly die and the government decides how your hard-earned assets are to be divided. That’s exactly what would happen - if you don’t have a Will.
If you die without a Will in Canada, you are considered to have died "intestate”. What that means is the provincial government is automatically given the authority to manage the division of your assets. Not your surviving spouse.
There are many reasons why you may not have a Will. Maybe you think you’re too young. You may feel a Will is not necessary because you don’t a partner or children, or many assets. Or, like many people, you assume that without a Will, your estate is simply passed along to your spouse.
Whatever your reason is for not having a Will, there are many more why you should have one.
If you should die intestate…
- Your assets are frozen. Your spouse or children cannot access your bank account even if it is to pay for funeral expenses. Your bank requires legal documentation before it can release the funds.
- Any debts you have will be paid first (after taxes and funeral expenses) before any of your assets go to surviving family members.
- Your loved ones cannot decide how your possessions are to be distributed – the courts do. This could involve the sale of certain items such as an heirloom or even a business that you may want kept in the family.
- Your spouse or partner may not receive a share of your estate. Depending on which province you live in, the definition of "spouse" varies. For example, if you have a legal spouse but live with a common-law partner, your legal spouse may be the beneficiary - not your current partner. Common-law partners and same sex relationships are not recognized, which means your significant other in this relationships will receive nothing.
- Your children will not receive any benefits until the age of majority (18 or 19 depending on the province), and no one – not even your surviving spouse – can decide how much they will receive. The government will decide your children’s financial future.
- You haven’t appointed a guardian for your young children. In the event that both parents die, the courts will determine who will be the legal guardian of your surviving children.
- You don’t have an executor to handle your estate according to your wishes. An administrator will be appointed by the government to take care of the distribution of your assets.
- No one knows your preferences for your burial. Your grieving family must make these difficult decisions for you.
- No charitable organization or close personal friend will receive any part of your estate.
- The government will take a portion of your estate as a fee for service.
- Your surviving loved ones may be faced with legal costs.
Wouldn’t you want to know that after your death your wishes are respected, your assets are managed as decided by you, and your spouse and children are safe and financially secure? Preparing a Will is an affordable, easy way to have that peace-of-mind – for you and your loved ones.
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