The thought of making and planning the distribution of your estate can be daunting. It can be difficult to grasp where to start or who to ask for advice. This following considerations should be taken into account when planning for and preparing a Will.
Appointing a guardian for your minor child
When one parent dies, the other parent typically gets legal custody of any minor children. However, if one parent is unfit to care for the child, or if both parents die, the deceased’s family and the Courts will look to the Will to determine who should become a child’s guardian. If there is no guardian named in a Will, or if the named guardian is unwilling or incapable of acting as a guardian, the Courts will make a decision on behalf of the deceased individuals.
To avoid complications, it is wise to name guardians and alternate guardians for your minor children in your Will. It is also important to speak with potential guardians prior to appointing them, in order to ensure that they are willing and able to assume this responsibility.
Choosing the beneficiaries of your Will
The individuals named in a Will are called “beneficiaries.” The most common types of beneficiaries are close friends and family. A Will outlines the inheritance to be received by each beneficiary after a person’s death.
Value your assets
In making a Will, it is helpful to consider and list all known assets. If there are significant assets, such as a house, property or motor vehicle, it is important to identify whether the asset is owned independently or in conjunction with someone else. With respect to real property, there are two ways in which property can be co-owned: (i) a joint tenancy, or (ii) a tenancy in common. The nature of the property ownership will impact whether or not the testator’s share of the property can be included in the Will and gifted to a beneficiary.
Many people include specifics gifts of items with sentimental value in their Wills so they can ensure that these items are given to a specific person. Even if there is little to no monetary value in the object, sometimes a small personal item will be the one which is most crucial to a beneficiary. Specific gifts may include jewelry, artwork or other family heirlooms.
Appointing an executor
It is important to consider who should be appointed as the executor of an estate when an individual passes away. The executor is an individual who carries out the instructions in the Will and administers the estate, including paying any taxes and debts, and distributing the property in accordance with the Will. Choosing an executor is an important decision. The named individual should be trusted to carry out the testator’s wishes and instructions honestly. They should be organized and understand their responsibilities as an executor.
For further information or assistance in drafting a Will, please consult a TEP.