Having a conversation about your will is something that nobody wants to do but needs to be prioritized. Not only is it intimidating, but nobody enjoys discussing what happens when they die. This blog breaks down what you can expect during the process and how to get the conversation started.

Where there's a will, there's a way ... for you to have the last say.

Why do people avoid writing their last will and testament? It’s a fact, we’re not immortal. We all have an expiry date but continue to make excuses to not have the uncomfortable conversation. An Angus Reid survey revealed that 51 per cent of Canadians had no last will or testament. Of those who did have a will in place, 35 per cent admitted to it being out of date. I’ll admit, I’m one of those people and I have experience in dealing with a parent with no will and one with an outdated will – lots of work and heartache.

What’s the top reason for not having a will according to the survey? People think they’re too young to worry about it. Yes, we all hope to live to a ripe old age but there are so many factors that can come into play and chances are, most of us won’t leave this earth that way.

If you’re 18 years or older, whether you own any assets – solely or joint, in a long-term relationship or have dependents (this includes your pets) – you should have a will. It makes everything easier for those who are left to deal with your estate. People have trouble making daily decisions like where and what to eat. Try making important decisions in times of extreme grief and heightened emotions. Who makes these decisions if you don’t have a will? The law will decide (on your dime) what happens to your assets and dependents and their choice may not be what you had in mind.

Having a will uncomplicates everything

Writing a will doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s actually more complicated if you don’t have a will especially if there is business ownership involved, property in a foreign country or second marriages with children in the equation. Luckily, there are experts to help you every step of the way.

To get started, all you need to do is set up an appointment with a lawyer and bring along some information. This may require you to do a bit of homework.

Here are a few things you will need to bring:

    • Valid government identification

    • The name of the person to be your executor. You will need to ask the person if they are willing to take on this responsibility. It doesn’t have to be a family member. It can be a close friend, relative or trust company – someone you feel is trustworthy.

    • If you have children or pets, the name of the legal guardian you want to take care of your children after you are gone. It’s a good idea to have a discussion with the person(s) to ensure they are willing to take on this responsibility and the financial implications that may incur.

    • List of your beneficiaries and assets you wish to bequeath to them. This includes any donations to charities.

    • List of insurance policies including company names and addresses.

    • Name of your financial institution(s), list of accounts and investments.

    • Funeral/burial instructions. These do not have to be elaborate unless you want them to be. They may just state whether you want to be cremated or buried and where?

Be prepared financially

Depending on the complexity of your estate, costs can run anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands and often, more than one trip to the lawyer’s office. A less expensive alternative is online services such as Willful and LegalWills which allow you to create a customized legal will. However, you’re still required to print and sign your documents to make them legal along with the signatures of two witnesses.

Did you know that your witness can’t be anyone who benefits from your will? Canadian law also requires that in order to be legally-binding, wills must be physically printed and stored offline. With the restrictions of COVID-19, Saskatchewan now allows you to have your will witnessed over video chat but one of the witnesses must be a lawyer in good standing with the provincial law society.

Be aware that if you expect to have a complex will, online platforms may not be the best choice to capture all the legal requirements necessary.

Make it a priority

Don’t delay any longer. Make it a priority! It may take twenty minutes online or two hours in person, but the peace of mind it will bring for everyone involved will be worth it. Planning ahead will help reduce stress and avoid arguments between loved ones. Plus, as we’ve learned in the last year dealing with a pandemic, it’s always good to have a plan in place for the unexpected.

Remember, your will is not written in stone. It needs to be updated when you have a life changing event such as getting married, divorced, having children or if you no longer own the asset you bequeathed.

It all comes down to choice – your choice. Don’t leave it to chance. Let the last decisions made be your own.

Visit the Public Legal Education Association (Plea) to learn more about wills and other legal topics specific to Saskatchewan and Canada.