Before the girls were born, I worked as corporate counsel at a global telecommunications company. The company was a publicly traded company, and my job revolved around making sure the company met the rules and requirements of being a public company. What I did was not the kind of thing you would normally think of when you think “lawyer”, and certainly not something that you see on TV. I don’t know anything about going to court, winning cases or defending someone charged with murder.
Another area that I don’t know anything about is how to make a will. So when the time came for me and my husband to have wills, it was not something that we could do for ourselves (he works with patents and also doesn’t know about wills). We had to hire a lawyer. Truthfully, I was afraid to have a will. I didn’t want to even think about my estate since it’s so morbid. And yet I knew it was the smart thing for us to have now that we are parents. Fear and avoidance were not good reasons to not have a will. I wish we could live forever and not have to worry about these things. Some comfort did come from the fact that, should the unthinkable happen, my affairs would be in order. I want my children to be cared for and I don’t want to leave behind a messy estate and legal burdens to my family members.
While this should not be construed as legal advice since I’m completely unqualified and not permitted it to give legal advice on the subject, here are five reasons why you and your partner should meet with a lawyer to make your wills.
Five Reasons Why You Should Have a Will
#5 You Should Control How Your Assets Are Distributed
You have assets and you should be the one to decide what happens to them. Die without a will (which is called dying intestate) and your assets will be distributed according to the laws of the area in which you live. Why would you want your assets to be distributed by default? Even if the laws of your home province or state will distribute your assets to your spouse and/or children, it would be better to have your assets be distributed in the exact way that you want.
Your will can always be changed, so if in the future your assets and how you want them to be distributed should change then you can just simply change your will at that time. In fact, it makes sense to periodically review your will and update it as necessary. At the same time as creating or updating a will, it is also prudent to make sure that the beneficiaries on all other assets (life insurance, RRSPs, pensions) are also up to date.
#4 You Can’t Do It Yourself
Having a will drawn up by a lawyer as opposed to not having a will at all or having one that you created yourself means that your family members won’t end up arguing in court. I understand that people generally don’t enjoy meeting with lawyers and that lawyers are expensive but estate law is a very specialized area, and having a will drawn up by a legal professional means that it is more likely that your wishes will be carried out and that those you leave behind will not be dragged into legal battles over your estate.
Do not be afraid to have the lawyer explain every aspect of your will to you; you should feel comfortable with your will and fully understand it. The bar association of most provinces and states have lawyer referral services that can help you find an estate lawyer in your area. Many estate lawyers charge a reasonable flat fee for a will so you don’t have to worry about billable hours.
#3 You May Be Alive But Incapacitated
Along with your will you should also consider having a lawyer create a continuing power of attorney for property and for personal care for you. These documents are important in situations where you are alive but incapacitated.
A power of attorney for property will appoint a person to make your financial decisions in the event you are incapacitated.
A power of attorney for personal care will appoint a person to make healthcare directives for your while you are incapacitated. You can also specify what kinds of medical treatment you do or do not want in the event you are critically injured.
Like your will, these documents can be updated over time.
#2 Select a Back-Up Executor
Most people assume that if something should happen to them then their spouse will be there to care for the kids and to take over their estate, but you need to plan for your children in the event that you and your spouse are both gone. It’s a horrible thing to think about, I know. The only thing worse is to not have planned for the guardianship of your children should they ever be left parentless. The final decision about guardanship of minor children is usually left to the courts; however, the wishes of a parent as expressed in a will is heavily considered by the court.
While you will likely name your spouse as the executor of your estate, you should also name an alternate executor. The executor of your estate is the person that will administer your estate. The executor also does not have to be just one person, and can be two or more people that have to act together.
The person(s) that you designate as the guardian of your children does not necessarily have to be the same person(s) that you designate as your executor. If they are not the same person(s), the guardian will make decisions about your children and the executor will make decisions about your estate.
#1 Your Children Deserve It
Your children are important. Since the day you found out you were pregnant, you have been planning and preparing for their future. No matter how uncomfortable it is to think about not being around for your children, the responsible thing to do is to have a will to deal with their guardianship and inheritance. Hopefully, your will (and mine and Matt’s too) will just gather dust in a drawer for decades to come.
Samantha, the creator of cherrypietwins.blogspot.ca, is a lawyer turned stay at home mommy of twin girls born in December 2010. She loves pop culture, freshly painted nails, Starbucks, yoga and French macarons. Her husband is also a lawyer, and together they share a love of travel and a passion for food. They feel lucky to be living a sweet life with their sweet girls. Samantha mostly blogs about her girls and mommy stuff but she also often blogs about non-mommy things like food, style, hair, entertainment and travel.