November rings in "Make-A-Will" Month. The idea is to promote introspection, reflection and encourage people to engage in the estate planning process actively. 2020 has been difficult, unconventional, and unpredictable by all measures. In recent months, living amid a raging pandemic has spurred on several Ontarians to either create or update their estate plans. For those who have not, there is no time like the present.
Timely estate planning can save a lot of expense, delay, and conflict in the future. You can avoid problems resulting from a person dying intestate (without a valid will) by enforcing a proper estate plan. Estate planning is not just for well-established persons, celebrities, or those with significant amassed wealth. Young adults -- who have no income or assets to boast and living in their parents' basement and struggling to pay off student debts should also consider estate planning.
If a young adult dies without a will, there would be no one with authority to tie up loose ends such as:
- planning the funeral,
- dealing with "digital assets" (social media accounts, online banking/investment accounts, university/college network accounts, etc.),
- closing out bank accounts,
- filing a final tax return (and potentially catch refundable credits),
- selling or transferring vehicle ownership,
- collecting the last paycheck,
- protecting intellectual property,
- retaining a lawyer to sue if a civil wrong caused death,
- answering general enquiries about the deceased.
Such tasks can be cumbersome, especially when dealing with institutions or authorities bound by strict privacy laws. For example, an individual's assets may not be lodged in a traditional bank or financial institution, but digital assets – such as reward points, frequent flyer miles, cryptocurrency, can be monetized. Without a will, there is no estate trustee to finalize these accounts. An eligible person will have to apply to a court to be appointed as executor, which can be incommodious, costly and time-consuming.
A simple will can easily offset the delays and costs. For those with complex assets and family dynamics, estate planning is a must, not a nice-to-have. You can alleviate having to deal with intestate mess for your loved ones by planning your estate well.
It's November - Make a Will.