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What You Need to Know About Wills

A will is a written legal document which states an individual's wishes, in regard to their assets, and how they should be managed upon their death.

A will usually consists of the assets the individual had at the time of death. Preparing a will allows a person to determine, before death, how their property, household belongings, savings, investments and personal items will be divided among the beneficiaries.

Many individuals try to save money by writing their own wills. This type of will is known as a Holographic Will. A person can prepare the will themselves, in their own handwriting and sign. In this type of will the individual does not require a witness. Holographic Wills are not recognized in all provinces in Canada. If an individual is considering writing their own will, they should carefully research which information and details must be included in the will. A will written without the correct level of detail can often be challenged or determined legally invalid.

If you are 18 years or older, own property, have a spouse or children you should consider having a Formal Will prepared. If you have no close friends or relatives, but have property and investments you should also have a will in place.

A Formal Will can do such things as:

- Name your executor

- Name the individuals you wish to receive your personal property

- Name who will receive heirlooms, jewelry and collections

- Name any organizations you wish to leave money or property to

- Name who will assume responsibility for the family business

- Identify legal guardians for any unmarried children you have under the age of 18 years

- Identify legal guardians of any disabled children over 18 years

- Identify provisions for the care of any member of the family with special needs

- Help to reduce extra costs for spouses and family members after your death

- Limit fighting over your estate

Dying without a Will is called dying "intestate". In such cases the courts decide how your estate is distributed. Your property is all treated the same and there will be no special provisions given to specific items or heirs. This often leads to disagreements between family members. If the family is not in agreement with the court's decision, it may be necessary to sell all belongings and property to ensure the distribution of value which is required by law.

An experienced lawyer can assist you through the process to ensure that your spouse, children and family have little to worry about in managing your estate after your death. Protect your family and estate with the safeguard of a will.

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