If you don't have a will because you don't quite know what to do or aren't sure you need one, read on to find out why it's essential that you be prepared.
Colin Kloot, a partner at Herman, Kloot and Company who's been practicing law in Drumheller for 19 years, explained that wills aren't only for people with a lot of assets. Even something as simple as a final tax return needs to be filed by a personal representative (executor) of the estate and writing a will is the easiest and smoothest means of appointing that person.
"If you don't have a will and you leave assets, there's a delay in the administration of your estate simply because the first step is to appoint somebody who is going to administer your estate," said Kloot. "And, that is a court application and of course, [you have] delay and your assets might be frozen until that's done."
Frozen assets can include your bank account, something that is particularly problematic if you have a family or any joint accounts. If you've written a will and appointed a representative, your will can be probated and your estate can be settled quickly and efficiently.
If you're convinced that you need a will, but aren't sure what to do, Kloot pointed out that the first step is to sit down and give the big decisions a bit of thought.
"What we do require is that you give thought as to how you see your estate devolving amongst your beneficiaries so, you have to decide who you want as your beneficiaries (who you want your assets to go to) and you also have to decide who you want as your personal representative," he said. "You may also want to give thought as to who would be guardian of your children in the event that you die."
You can also write your own will, although Kloot doesn't recommend the DIY approach.
"If you're the kind of person who can fix your own car and can fill your own cavity in your tooth, you might want to go and buy an online will kit or you can ignore all of that and write your own will from scratch."
He explained that wills are very formalistic, meaning that there's a lot of specificity surrounding their composition. If, for example, you designate a beneficiary and then have him act as witness, your will can be invalidated, leaving your estate in the same position as if you didn't have a will at all.
At the same time as getting a will done, Kloot suggested also asking for an enduring power of attorney and a personal directive (living will), just in case.