Why You Need a Will (Even if You Think You Don’t)
*Note: Daniel Goldgut is a past colleague of mine and I couldn't be more excited to hear that he had branched out from the traditional legal path (sound familiar) and started his company, Epilogue, which provides a straight-forward, easy and affordable way for people like you to get their wills and estate planning in order. This is something a lot of people have on their to-do list, but just don't get around to it. Listen closely when I tell you it is so important to get done; it's truly the best gift you can leave your family. I am so grateful he wrote this post for my community. Follow them along on Instagram for great tips and information! Without further ado, I'll turn it over to guest Author Daniel Goldgut, CEO and Co-Founder of Epilogue:
Who needs a Will?
I get this question a lot. The simple answer is everyone.
All adults need a Will. Now, I’m not saying everyone needs a Will the day they turn 18. But in pretty much every case, it’s better to have a Will than not to have one.
There are many benefits of having a Will, regardless of your situation in life. Having said that, there are particular times in a person’s life where it becomes more critical and top-of-mind to complete their estate planning. For example:
- Getting married
- Having kids
- Buying a house
- Starting a business
The truth is, there is no one perfect time to finish your Will, which is likely the reason many people procrastinate and put it off. Over half of Canadian adults don’t have a Will yet.
And not to freak anyone out, but there are some serious downsides to dying without a Will.
What happens if you die without a Will?
Many things can happen when someone dies without a Will, and the specifics vary according to the laws in your province.
For example, you may assume your spouse gets everything if you pass away; however, if you live in Ontario and have a spouse and kids, that’s not the case.
Additionally, if your kids are minors and you pass away with a Will, their money gets put in the hands of the government to manage for them and they get the money in a lump-sum when they reach the age of majority. With a Will, you can select a different age for them to inherit their portion of the estate if you think the age of majority is too young, and you can select a person to manage the money for them (and have the flexibility to pay out amounts earlier.)
Generally speaking, you give up a lot of control when you don’t have a Will.
You also can’t select important people like:
- An Executor: The person who manages your estate and carries out your wishes
- A Guardian: The person who will take care of your children if they are still minors and you are the last living parent (or legal guardian)
Without being able to name an executor or guardian, people must apply to the court to take on these roles. This takes time and adds to the stress of an already stressful situation.
Why business owners need a Will
The ability to name an executor becomes particularly important when you’re a business owner and will need someone to immediately step into your shoes.
Perhaps orders are coming in that need to be fulfilled. Or there are customer requests that need to be answered.
Having a Will in place means you’ve selected someone you trust to take over if you aren’t around to run things and, most importantly, they know exactly how you want things handled.
What if you have an incorporated business?
An incorporated business is when your business is a separate legal entity from you as a person. Estate planning doesn’t necessarily have to look any different for someone who has an incorporated business.
There is a belief out there that both an individual needs a Will and a company needs a separate Will. The truth is, companies don’t need or have Wills. Sometimes, for very specific tax planning purposes (probate planning), if your company is very valuable, a person might make two Wills: A “personal” Will and a “corporate Will”. This is more common in the province of Ontario.
As a business owner, you own shares of your company. These shares make up your estate. So, when you pass away, your shares will be distributed as part of your estate.
Having a Will becomes especially important when you are the sole shareholder and signing officer for your business. With a Will, you not only ensure the shares get distributed as you would want, but you also ensure there is someone capable and willing to step into your shoes immediately and either run the business or sell the company on your behalf.
Where is the best place to start?
The best place to start is just to get started. There is a big misconception that making a Will requires a huge amount of decisions—this isn’t the case.
The main decisions you have to make are:
- Who do you want to be in charge (executor)?
- Who do you want to get your stuff (beneficiaries)?
- Who would you like to take care of any minor children (guardian)?
These decisions are big ones and often the main stumbling block to why people don’t start (or finish) their Will.
Conversations are key
You’ll have more confidence in making big decisions like these if you start having conversations.
If you have people in mind to fill the role of executor or guardian, just ask them! Make sure it’s something they feel comfortable with and make sure they understand what’s involved. And if you’re not sure, you can check out these resources to learn more:
It’s essential to reach out and have these conversations. As you can imagine, being named guardian isn’t something you’d want to be surprised with.
I had the pleasure of discussing this topic in greater detail with Jaime Bell, Founder of Contracts Market recently on Instagram Live. Check out the entire 40 minute conversation here.
If you have any questions, or want to get started on your Will and estate planning now, check us out at Epilogue.
This is a guest post written by Daniel Goldgut is the CEO and Co-Founder of Epilogue. In his previous life, he was a tax and estate planning lawyer for high and ultra-high net worth clients. Now, he's on a mission to democratize estate planning for all Canadians with Epilogue. When he's not working, he's busy being a husband and father to his 3-year-old twins, and new baby.
Affiliate Disclaimer: Contracts Market Inc. is an affiliate of Epilogue and this post contains affiliate links. By purchasing any product from Epilogue, Contracts Market may make a commission from your purchase.