Wills – Do I Really Need a Lawyer? (Part II)
The law libraries are filled with horror stories of estates being eaten up in legal fees and otherwise loving families being torn apart when family members fight over their inheritance. A valid, current Will can avoid these problems for your family, and help make the administration of your estate as smooth and painless as possible under trying circumstances. It is simply an indispensable part of any estate plan.
There are several reasons why a legal professional should be involved in the preparation of a Will. First, a lawyer is objective. The knowledge and experience will help avoid family quarrels, and make sure what you want done will be done. After all, a Will has to be done right the first time. Once you are gone, you won’t be given the opportunity to explain.
Second, a legal professional can ensure that the Will is valid. There are the legal restrictions on what you can and cannot do with your estate. For example, a lawyer will ensure that you do not run afoul of family law or dependants’ relief legislation. A lawyer will be up-to-date on recent changes in the law that may affect your estate, and deal with any complexities arising from owning property in more than one jurisdiction.
In this regard, a lawyer will make sure the necessary formalities have been taken care of in terms of drafting, and execution. Surprisingly, one of the most common causes of invalid Wills is improper execution. If a Will fails entirely, the property in the estate is divided according to provincial law rather than the wishes of the deceased.
Third, competent professional advice will help minimize probate fees and taxes. Taxes, of course, are pervasive in every aspect of our lives and our deaths, and probate taxes have increased dramatically in provinces such as Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia in recent years. In many cases, a lawyer can assist in setting up testamentary trusts in order to reduce taxes payable by heirs.
But the fact is, everyone’s situation is unique, and the boilerplate found in slim volumes at the local bookstore may not work for you. What it comes down to is avoiding the expense and aggravation to your family if something goes wrong, at what will inevitably be a trying time for them - so consider it a bit of insurance and have the Will professionally prepared for the peace of mind of you and your family.