A Will is a legal document that tells your estate trustee how to distribute your assets on your death. A Will is the key component in an estate plan which may consist of insurance, powers of attorney, family trusts, charitable donations and business succession planning. A properly drafted Will provides you with the comfort of knowing your affairs are in order; ensures your wishes are carried out on your death; and helps minimize cash flow problems and administrative burdens that loved ones will face.
As part of an estate plan, a properly drafted Will also reduces the likelihood that the distribution of your estate will lead to family conflict. It’s is a sad reality, but the truth is that the absence of a Will (or, arguably even worse, the presence of an improperly drafted Will) can result in feuding over the disposition of your assets. Instead of leaving the fruits of your life’s work to your family to enjoy, your estate will be the source of fighting and may be eroded as a result of lengthy estate litigation. This is obviously a nightmare scenario, though one that can be avoided by having a Will prepared.
We’ve come across more than a few individuals who wonder why they should bother getting a Will prepared by a lawyer when there are low-cost alternatives such as a will kit or online solution. The fact of the matter is that no alternative comes close to replicating the expertise and personal advice that a lawyer can provide. The problem with Will kits and online options are that every person, family and situation is unique. Low-cost, one-size-fits-all alternatives provide canned solutions based on predetermined factors. Predetermined solutions may not adequately address the complexities and dynamics of your particular situation. They cannot weigh factors differently, cannot probe for additional information when necessary and cannot apply professional judgment to know when two similar circumstances warrant different treatment. People who opt for these alternatives are placing themselves in a scenario where they risk costing their estate and their family a great deal more than the few hundred dollars that they will save.
A basic Will takes a minimum of 4 to 6 hours of legal time and costs between $350-$500 to have prepared. It is actually one of the most inexpensive legal services on a per-hour basis. The value of proper legal advice and a well drafted Will far exceeds its cost.
There is much more that goes into a Will than simply deciding who gets what. As estates lawyers, the following is a list of some of the things we do when preparing a “basic Will” for a client”
- We help the client make informed decisions regarding their estate, both in terms of ensuring their wishes get carried out and maximizing its value.
- We ensure the client has the capacity to make a Will and are not acting under duress.
- We ensure a full or partial intestacy does not arise. This means that, not only do we ensure all of our client’s assets are covered by the Will, but that all of their assets are covered by the Will under a number of different scenarios, such as where beneficiaries predecease the testator or common accidents occur between family members.
- We ensure all our client’s assets are capable of being distributed.
- We advise of potential claims that could be made by spouses and dependants against the estate.
- We identify taxation issues and tax planning opportunities to maximize the value of the estate.
- We ensure our client’s Will is drafted in a clear and unambiguous manner.
- We ensure our client’s Will is properly executed and both the execution and preparation process are well documented. This reduces the likelihood of a challenge and provide an evidentiary foundation in the event that there is a challenge.
- We offer guidance to minimize some of the hurdles and issues that can arise during the estate administration process.
Every adult should have a Will, especially if others are dependent on you. If you do not have a Will, it may be time to ask yourself why not? Although none of us can predict what will happen to us in this life, it is our responsibility to make the process a bit easier for our loved ones.