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5 good reasons to have a will

September 7, 2022

Like life insurance, a last will and testament is an effective tool to protect your loved ones. While you won’t benefit from it personally, you’ll make things easier for your heirs.

While a survey by the Angus Reid Institute revealed that 57% of Canadians don’t have a will, there are many reasons to make one.

Choosing your heirs

The purpose of a will is to consolidate in a single document your instructions on what to do with your personal and real estate property after your death.

You don’t have to have a will. If you don’t have one, the laws of the province in which you reside will dictate how your estate is divided, and they state that only your family may inherit it.

Writing a will allows you to choose who can inherit your property. You can choose who you want; family, friends, charities, and so on. You can also choose who you don’t want to inherit.

In addition to choosing your heirs, you can choose what each of them inherits. Your house, your investments, your jewelry and even your cat… you can assign all your personal and real estate assets in your will. Without a will, the estate liquidator or your heirs will decide how to allocate your assets.

Appointing an estate liquidator

Another great reason to make a will is deciding who will take care of your estate. When you write a will, you have the option of appointing a liquidator. This is the person who will be responsible for settling all your affairs.

Being a liquidator is an important job. Their responsibilities can range from closing bank accounts to distributing assets to heirs you have or haven’t identified in your will. That means you have to choose someone you trust who is able to perform these tasks. If you don’t choose a liquidator, your heirs will play that role. If your heirs can’t agree on a liquidator, the court will appoint a one.

Being an estate liquidator is a lot of work, so it’s important to think about who in your life is most responsible and able to perform that role. While this liquidator doesn’t need to be an accounting expert, they must be organized and motivated.

Protecting your family members

According to the law, your property is divided up differently upon your death based on your marital status. If you’re married, your spouse will receive a different portion of your estate than if you were common-law partners. You need to make a will to decide for yourself what inheritance your partner receives.  

If you’re a parent, you can use your will to designate a guardian for your underage children. When a parent dies, the surviving one usually obtains sole legal custody. However, if both parents die, it’s important to have measures in place for your children to be cared for by the people you have chosen. 

The guardian will be responsible for all of your children’s daily needs, including food, shelter, health care, education and clothing. If you don’t designate a guardian in your will, the court will have to choose one for you. This could mean that someone you didn’t choose will end up raising your children. 

Your will also enables you to can make financial arrangements for your children by leaving them a trust and setting conditions as to when they can receive their inheritance. 

When writing your will, remember to talk to those you’ve chosen to be your children’s guardians to make sure they are ready to take on this role and aware of your wishes. 

If you’re a pet owner, you can also benefit from having a will, as you ensure that someone will take care of it after your death. Since pets are considered to be property by law, you cannot leave them any property through your will. On the other hand, you can designate a beneficiary for your animal, leaving it to a trusted friend or family member. You can ask this person to act as your pet’s guardian, and even leave funds for them to care for your animal.

Keeping the law out of your estate

As mentioned earlier, if you don’t make a will to allocate your assets, the provincial government has a process in place to liquidate your estate.

Here’s how the Quebec government goes about it: 

  • If you are a common-law partner, single, divorced or widowed
    • If you have children: 100% of your estate will go to your children and/or grandchildren;
    • If you don’t have children: 50% of your estate will go to your parents and 50% to your siblings and/or nieces and nephews.
  • If you are married
    • If you have children: 1/3 of your estate will go to your spouse and 2/3 to your children and/or grandchildren;
    • If you don’t have children, but your parents are still alive: 2/3 of your estate will go to your spouse and 1/3 to your parents;
    • If you have no children and no parents
      • If you have siblings: 2/3 of your estate will go to your spouse and 1/3 to your siblings and/or nieces and nephews;
      • If you don’t have siblings: 100% of your estate will go to your spouse.

Avoiding family bickering

Even in the most tight-knit families, the death of a member can lead to conflict. If you don’t have a will, your family will have to guess what your last wishes were. And chances are they won’t all agree. This ambiguity can create friction, even fights, that sometimes last a long time and may even lead to a family rift or legal proceedings. Making a will solves the issue by eliminating speculation. 

Give your family time to grieve by making as many decisions as possible in your lifetime so they won’t have to. 

Your will may also include instructions for your funeral. While these instructions are not legally binding, they can provide guidance to your liquidators and loved ones.  

With all these reasons in mind, it’s now time to get to work and write your will. Three types of will are valid in Quebec:

  • Will made in the presence of witnesses
  • Notarial will
  • Holograph will 

Visit the Justice Québec website for full details.  

Writing a will is cheaper than you might think. In fact, it costs nothing to produce a holograph will or a will in the presence of witnesses if you do so yourself.  

If you wish to have a notarial will, you must ask your notary how much this costs. You can visit the Chambre des notaires website to find a notary specialized in drafting wills. Use the search filters to select the area of expertise. 

And since you’ll already be dealing with a notary, you could take that opportunity to draft a protection mandate—another document that will make things easier for your loved ones!


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