Whether you think your will is out-of-date or up-to-date, if any of the statements below sound like things that you have been saying to yourself, it is time to take another look at your will.
“I am married. Everything is going to my spouse anyway, I don’t need a will.”
Nigel Watson, a Toronto lawyer who has specialized in real estate, wills and estate law for over 40 years, says that a common misconception is that married couples with joint property believe that only one of them needs a will.
According to Watson, the biggest potential problem with that is the couple “overlooks the possibility of them dying together.” For a couple’s joint property and each individual’s assets, having a will means there is a plan in place no matter who dies first.
“I named an executor. That should be fine. ”
Make sure that when you name an executor for your will, you also name an alternate executor.
Over time, things can change and you may not be able to react right away if something happens to someone named in your will, so make sure when naming beneficiaries you also name alternate back-up beneficiaries. As well, if your children are under the age of 16 make sure to include guardians and alternate guardians as well.
“I can write this new will by hand and you can witness it for me.”
Watson explains a handwritten will, known as a holographic will, is only legal if it is not signed by any witnesses. As for a typed will, it requires the signatures of two witnesses, neither of whom can be named beneficiaries in the will.
“I don’t need to redo my whole will. I’ll just change that part and initial it.”
Changing a beneficiary by a line through a name or writing in a different dollar value, is not a change that will legally hold. According to Watson, altering a section of your will, without it being done properly and officially, will render the whole section invalid, and neither your original nor your updated instructions will be followed.
“My funeral plans are in my will, so all of my wishes will be followed.”
Watson says he has seen people want to include very elaborate funeral plans in their wills, but even the simplest of wishes may not be followed if they are only written in your will. It is likely your executor will not see your will until after your funeral. Make sure your executor or family knows about any requests beforehand. Similarly, if you have made any prepaid arrangements, be sure someone knows about them and where you store your documents.
“My do-it-yourself will has everything a lawyer’s will does.”
Watson warns that many will kits that are readily available online and in stores are missing an important element, clauses that give the power to named individuals to sell your property after your death, including real estate and stocks and bonds.