This article briefly discusses the importance of having a will in place to avoid legal issues that can arise if you do not have a will at the time of your passing.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF DYING WITHOUT A VALID WILL IN ONTARIO
If you die without a valid will you are considered to have died “intestate,” which means that the Ontario government through the Ontario Succession Law Reform Act, will distribute your estate (property, possessions, and other personal items). Your estate will not be distributed according to your wishes and will be distributed according to the law.
No one will have any authority to act for the estate until a Court appoints a person. According to the law, unless someone who is financially dependent on the deceased person makes a claim, the first $200,000 is given to the deceased person’s spouse if he or she has decided to claim his/her entitlement. The balance of the estate is divided among your spouse and children (once they reach 18). With a will, you can clearly set out how and to who you wish to gift your personal property, real estate, cars, jewelry, and other assets that you owned at the time of your passing. Furthermore, a valid will may also help reduce tax burdens any beneficiaries may face depending on how the will is structured.
COMMON LAW SPOUSES AND OTHER RELATIVES
Common-law spouses do not have the same rights under the law as married spouses. If you want to leave something to your common-law spouse, you must set out gifts in a valid will. A common law spouse may petition the courts for support as a dependent, leading the estate into potential litigation and additional costs.
When a person dies without a will only blood relatives, including children born outside of marriage, or legally adopted children can inherit. Half-blood relatives share equally with whole-blood relatives.
Furthermore, without the certainty of a will, family members and other potential heirs could disagree with how your estate should be divided. As a result, family members can become opponents in a dispute before the courts.
A WILL PROVIDES CLARITY AND CERTAINTY
When a person dies with a will, the estate is normally distributed according to the directions in the will, once the funeral and burial expenses and any debts have been paid. Furthermore, a will provides you and your family peace of mind now and in the future that your family will have the care and resources they need, and that your passing will not create an administrative or legal burden for them after you pass.
GUARDIANSHIP – CARING FOR YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS
In your will, you can set out guardians for minors (i.e. children under 18) or family members with special needs. Without a named guardian, there could be a dispute amongst family members as to who is best to be a guardian. Such disputes could potentially lead to court or involvement and the will can also set out care provisions for elderly parents who may depend on you for their care.
GET IN TOUCH WITH US TODAY
Everyone should have a valid Will regardless of income and family status. It’s a simple process that can help avoid legal and financial complications that can arise when a person passes away without a valid Will. Contact us today to learn more.
This article has been published as a general information article and is not intended to considered legal advice.
This article is prepared as a service for our clients to provide general information. It is not intended to be a complete statement of the law or an opinion on any subject. While we endeavour to ensure accuracy, one should not act upon this article without a thorough examination of the law after the facts of a specific situation are considered. We would be pleased to provide additional details or advice about specific situations if desired. No client solicitor relationship is established unless a formal retainer is entered into.