you die without a will — legally known as “intestate” — you may be
leaving a complicated mess for your loved ones and missing an
opportunity to distribute your assets in your preferred, more meaningful
way. Dying intestate essentially means you don’t get to decide how your
estate is split up — the province does.
someone dies intestate, the applicable provincial succession law kicks
in. Here’s a brief overview of what that could mean for your estate.
You don’t have an executor
will names your executor, the person who will manage your estate. But
if you’re intestate, a court will appoint an administrator to handle
your affairs. This will typically be a family member but again, it’s an
important decision that someone else is making for you. Family member or
friends can apply to be your administrator, but this can lead to . . .
More potential for disputes
applying to be your administrator needs the consent of every person who
has an equal right to apply. Protracted disagreements can lead to a
court making the decision.
Then, if the court appoints a person everyone can’t agree on, it can lead to disputes over who gets what and why.
Everything goes to my spouse, right?
necessarily. If your have no children, the spouse generally does
inherit everything. When children are involved, the spouse may get a
“preferential share” of the estate, with the rest divided into fractions
depending on the number of kids.
This prevents you from specifying certain gifts for certain people, or bequeathing different amounts to different beneficiaries.
“Legalese” can exclude loved ones from inheriting anything
provincial inheritance laws don’t recognize common-law partners and
many do not recognize stepchildren as a “child” in the legal sense. So
if you die intestate, some of your loved ones may be cut out of the
No control over guardianship
will can name a guardian for any children but, in the absence of a
will, a court will appoint one. Disputes can arise over the court’s
choice, leading to delays and court costs. Not to mention the toll on
the children from all the uncertainty.
Court costs and taxes can eat up more of your estate
can lead to additional court costs, lawyer fees, and higher taxes that a
proper, official will could avoid or defer. Drawing up a proper will is
comparatively cheap when weighed against the costs from administering
assets of an intestacy.
a will can be a fairly simple process, one that you can even do
yourself. Depending on your wishes and your assets, it may be useful to
seek legal and financial advice to avoid any disputes over your estate.