It’s smart to make a will even if you’re healthy

(NC) Although we may contemplate it from time to time, many of us don’t think seriously about preparing a will. But it’s probably the most important document we will ever write, and there’s no time like the present to write yours and enjoy the peace of mind that comes from having it done.

Here are a few guidelines:

Consult a lawyer. Some people try to save money by drafting a will on their own. But wills are governed by provincial legislation that can change, and you’re likely not an expert on taxation and how to reduce what will need to be paid. One unclear sentence or phrase could put your will into legal limbo for a very long time.

The cost of having a professionally drafted will is far less than most people realize. You can also save money by making sure you are organized before seeing the lawyer by creating a record of your important documents and the names of your immediate family, executor and beneficiaries.

Understand the consequences. If you don’t have a will, the court appoints an administrator to manage your estate. Provincial legislation will determine who your beneficiaries will be and this may include some people that you had no intention of remembering. The process is generally more expensive and some of the bequests you had always intended to make — such as to your church, a favourite charity or an organization like Amnesty International that you supported in your lifetime — would be ignored.

Choose your executor wisely. An executor is a person who will be responsible for using your assets as needed to pay any outstanding debts and to file a final income tax return. The executor is also responsible for preserving your assets until they can be sold or transferred to the beneficiaries of your estate. Once all the financial obligations have been met and a clearance certificate from the Canada Revenue Agency has been obtained, the executor can distribute the remainder of your assets according to your wishes.

You have options. Any adult can be an executor, including one or more of the following: your spouse, a family member, a friend, a trust company or a lawyer. The important thing is to choose someone who is both capable and willing to take on the responsibility of handling your estate.

Find more information at www.amnestyinternational.ca/legacy. Or, a free information package on wills can be received by writing to Amnesty International, 1992 Yonge Street, Suite #310, Toronto, Ontario, M4S 1Z7.

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