Bringing peace of mind

CanWest News Service
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Family dynamics most important consideration in drawing up a workable will

A study in the United Kingdom revealed that people who have prepared a will live 10 years longer on average than those without wills.

A study in the United Kingdom revealed that people who have prepared a will live 10 years longer on average than those without wills.

There is something to be said for the peace of mind that comes from knowing your assets will be going to those you want to receive them, and that your loved ones won't be financially burdened by your passing.

"A will sets up your property for an orderly transition when you pass away," said Andrew McLaughlin, of Turning Point Law in Sherwood Park. "You can name guardians for your children, you can give gifts to your individuals, you can make sure that the money in the most effective way possible reaches the beneficiaries you want."

Dying intestate, namely without a will, means that a government-appointed administrator rather than a personal representative will distribute the assets, which generally pass to blood relatives or if there are none, the provincial government.

Some people avoid making a will because of legal costs, which have risen in recent years.

But if a person's affairs are simple and assets are few, a will kit costing less than $75 may suffice.

"I've seen situations where will kits are OK, but I've been involved with some absolute disasters. They assume distributions, they don't put in appropriate powers, they don't allow the trustee to make decisions that are in the best interest of the beneficiaries or minor children," said McLaughlin.

"When you go to a lawyer you're getting the conversation about the estate, where is the tax going to come from, what's going to be the process, have you set it up appropriately, what can you do to improve or make the distribution of an estate more efficient? In many cases you'll save more than the cost of the will itself, and you get the peace of mind."

McLaughlin feels the most important consideration in drawing up a will is the family dynamic.

"A lot of people come in focused on taxes, and in my experience quite often you have to turn them away from that focus and say, 'What is the dynamic that's going to work in the context of your family?' You have to talk to them about probate, and whether passing assets through joint ownership would be appropriate. You have to make the transition of the assets clear to them."

He said important issues for most parents are guardianship of children and how they will receive assets.

Distributing assets fairly can be tricky, especially when different types of assets are given to different beneficiaries.

Another common mistake is putting property in joint ownership with one child, with no taxation consideration.

Geographic location: United Kingdom, Sherwood Park

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