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  • Writer's picturePatricia A. Stewart | CFA

Why Every Senior Needs an Updated Will

Estate planning is essential for seniors who want to ensure their wishes and goals are followed at the end of their life. Estate, succession, and will planning may be uncomfortable topics to discuss, but having a plan in place ensures everything is taken care of.

Unfortunately, after creating a will, most Canadians put it away for safekeeping and never pull it out again. This could be a big mistake. After all, our lives and finances change over the years. We get married, have families, relocate, start a business, buy a cottage, make investments etc. Any of these life changes should prompt the updating of a will. And because wills can be complex, having an updated will can save your loved ones from a lot of stress. It can also save them money.

Does My Will Even Need Updating?

A will is a legal document that dictates how you want your property to be distributed when you die. The executor is the person you entrust to ensure your wishes are carried out.

It’s important then that your will and the executor reflects your current life circumstances. For example, if you made a will before getting married or starting a family, have pets, or there are other beneficiaries like a close friend or relative, or even a charity you’d like to help, the will should be updated to reflect how the assets and personal property are distributed.

Or, if you now have a family cottage or business and family members have different views of what should happen to those assets, an updated will can be very beneficial.

Another item that may need to be updated in an older will is the person responsible for carrying out the will. If you made a will 30 years ago, it’s quite possible that because of circumstances or issues of suitability, you may want to change who the executor is.

What Happens to My Assets if I Don’t Have a Will?

What happens if you live in Toronto and don’t have a will? While some seniors may think the government takes your estate and assets if you die without a will, this is simply not true. In Canada, estate planning and wills are governed by the provinces and territories. And while no two follow the exact same rules, there are laws that dictate what happens when someone dies without a will.

For example, in Ontario, if you don’t have a will, a trustee will need to be appointed. This can take some time since it involves applying to the court for a certificate of appointment of estate trustee without a will. This grants a loved one with the authority to settle the estate. There is a fee for this; 1.5% on anything over $50,000.

What about the actual assets and estate? While Ontario’s Succession Law Reform Act can be a difficult read, if there are no children, the spouse gets the entire estate. If there are children, the spouse receives the first $350,000; everything above that is split between the spouse and children.

If there is one child, the split is 50/50. If there is more than one child, the spouse receives one-third with the other two-thirds being split evenly among the children. Any money for children under 18 years of age goes to a public guardian trustee. Once they turn 18, they receive that money from the trustee.

Sharp Asset Management for Your Retirement Planning Needs

A will is one of the most important legal documents you have. Because of changing life circumstances, it’s important to change your will when anything important happens. It’s equally important to review your will every five to 10 years. Making changes to a will can also be overwhelming.

If you live in Toronto and are looking for a wealth management or estate planning financial advisor, the registered succession and estate planning professionals at Sharp Asset Management can help you decide what to do.

Sharp Asset Management is an independent wealth management firm that is 100% owner operated. We are not affiliated with any financial institution, securities firm or mutual fund company. As a result, our investment decisions are unbiased. We also don’t earn any commissions or fees on investments we choose on behalf of our clients.

All of our investment counsellors are chartered financial analysts, the highest level of achievement, and have over 10 years of experience managing portfolios. To learn more about investing with Sharp Asset Management, contact us today.

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