An online survey of 800 B.C. residents earlier this year found that 66 per cent of parents of children 18 or younger do not have a will, which leaves the family vulnerable to outside decision-makers, delays and conflict if something were to happen to one or both parents.
The survey, which was conducted this spring by Ipsos for BC Notaries, also showed that overall only 44 per cent of B.C. adults have a will in place and only 57 per cent of homeowners have a current will.
“We know that too many people pass without a will in place because notaries help families navigate the bureaucracy and uncertainty created for those left behind,” said Rhoda Witherly, president of BC Notaries and a notary in Prince Rupert. “Even for us, this finding that two-thirds of parents with dependent children don’t have a will is surprisingly high and a concern for these families.”
If there is no will in place, or the will is not properly prepared, custody of any children under 18 and property distribution may not occur as the deceased intended. Furthermore, if the public guardian and trustee is brought in to administer the estate, the province may then decide on the future of dependent children and assets.
“Many people put off creating a will, which can create stress and conflict amongst family members after a person’s death. This in turn can lead to increased costs to the estate and unexpected outcomes for children and beneficiaries,” said Daniel Boisvert, a notary in Tsawwassen. “A legal will gives clear direction as to the guardianship of the children, rather than this important decision being made by the courts or government.”
The costs of administering your estate may also be higher if a current and legal will does not exist, said Susan Tong, a notary in Vancouver.
“One of the kindest things you can do for your family and loved ones is to have a will in place, so it’s one less thing they need to worry about it after you’re gone,” said Tong.
Creating a will can typically be done in two short meetings, said Vancouver notary David Watts.
“During the first meeting, we will discuss a general overview of your assets and your intentions for their distribution. The second meeting finalizes your plan and your paperwork,” said Watts. “A good way to start the process is to think about who you would want to care for your children, inherit your home and any other assets, and then visit a local notary who can assist you in preparing a proper and legal will.”
Most people find that creating a will leads to important discussions and decisions, and brings families closer by creating more certainty and peace of mind for everyone. It also creates peace of mind that assets will be distributed to family, friends and charitable organizations according to the will-maker’s wishes.