Creating a will makes a financial plan for the distribution of your wealth. It ensures the assets you’ve worked hard to build are distributed according to your wishes. However, there are a few common questions and misconceptions that we’ve seen keep many people in Grande Prairie from taking action. 

Below we debunk some of the confusion by answering questions that may convince you to get started on your will today. 

What Age Should I Get a Will?

Many young adults and single individuals believe they don’t need a will because they don’t have significant assets or dependents to care for. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t have assets that can be distributed to others, such as friends, business partners, older partners, nieces and nephews or charitable organizations. A will outlines what you want and can simplify the probate process for those impacted by your passing.

Does Everything Go to My Spouse?

“What’s mine is yours” is not always the case with the distribution of assets if a spouse passes away without a will. In Alberta, we are governed by the Wills and Succession Act which dictates how intestate estates are distributed. Currently, the Act states that a surviving spouse is entitled to the first $250,000 with the remaining estate split equally between the spouse and all biological children. This division may not align with your preferences and could leave a spouse with less than they need to maintain their lifestyle. Creating a will allows you to specify who receives what and when.

Can We Just Have Joint Ownership?

Joint ownership of assets, such as bank accounts or property, is a common way for a spouse, common-law partner or other family members to share control. Those assets do not automatically pass to the surviving joint owner. This common practice can simplify transfer upon death but doesn’t cover all assets held or address contingencies like the death of both owners.

Can a “God-parent” Care For Kids?

It’s been a long-standing tradition for families to appoint a “God-parent” or to call someone an Aunt or Uncle who’s not a relative but a part of your child’s life. Unless these people are stated as legal guardians in your will, they need to apply to the court to assume care of minor children if both parents pass. 

A will can also provide financial support to those assuming guardianship and set conditions for when your children inherit your assets. Without a will, a surviving spouse could also write their will to disinherit children or distribute assets against your intentions.  

What if My Family Knows What I Want?

Do not assume that family and loved ones fully comprehend your desires and that they agree. As you go through different stages in your life, your values and the ones of those around you often change. What you wanted 20 years ago may be completely different in 20 years. A clear will minimizes confusion and potential conflicts among loved ones.

Do I Need to Update My Will?

Once you write your will, it becomes a binding legal document but its not permanent. Think of it as a reflection of your current situation and values. Review your will regularly as important pieces of your life change, such as marriage, divorce, births, deaths, illnesses, or significant asset acquisitions or disposals.  

Can I Tax-optimize my Will? 

Inheritance tax rules are complex, but there are ways to protect loved ones from unnecessary tax burdens to leave more for your beneficiaries. Your Registered Retirement Saving Plan (RRSP) is recorded as income and taxed on your final tax return. By designating a qualified beneficiary on your RRSP or Registered Retirement Income Fund (RRIF), the funds can be transferred into an RRSP or RRIF account in their name and only taxed when withdrawn. 

To discuss tax-optimization strategies for your specific situation and personal estate planning, contact us at McNabb Lucuk LLP in Grande Prairie, Alberta. It’s your wealth. You deserve to have a say in how it’s managed now and as your legacy for the future.  We’d also be happy to refer you to a qualified professional to have your will properly documented and executed.