Do you need a Last Will and Testament?
Someone from Penticton asked me recently if not having a Last Will and Testament meant the government would get all his money when he died.
Well, no, the government does not necessarily get all your money, but if you don’t have a Will, they get to tell you who does get your money.
And you can bet the tax bill will be higher.
So what does the Wills, Estates and Succession Act say about who gets your money? That’s covered by Division 1 of the Act (section 20-35 for those keeping score at home).
There are different rules for different family scenarios: a person who dies with a spouse; with a spouse and children; with a spouse and step-children (or step-children of the spouse); with no spouse but descendants or relatives, and finally with two or more spouses (that happens more often than you think).
First, if there are no children, the spouse gets everything.
Second, if there are children and a spouse, the spouse gets the household furnishings and a preferential share. If the children are common to both the deceased and the spouse, the spouse gets the first $300,000. If the spouse is a step-parent to the children, the spouse gets the first $150,000. If that’s all there is, then the spouse gets everything. If there is anything left over (called the residue), the spouse gets half the residue and the children split the other half.
Third, if there are two spouses (let’s say you never finished filing those divorce papers and you’ve been living with your new partner for more than two years), then the spouses either agree to split the spousal share or they pay lawyers and a court to decide how much each get.
Finally, if there is no spouse, then the estate goes to the first of the following:
2. surviving parents;
4. grandparents and their descendants (aunts, uncles, cousins);
5. great-grandparents and their descendants;
6. if all else fails, then yes, the government gets your money.
If you don’t have a will, there is a chance somebody could end up with your money that you might not want to end up with your money.
There are other reasons, too, for writing a will, including setting up trusts for minor children or passing on guardianship of children.
Book an appointment with one of our Penticton lawyers today to talk about whether a Last Will and Testament is a valuable part of your estate planning.