I wish we didn’t have to think about death but like most moms, I worry about what will happen to my children when I am gone. There were so many questions that would fill my mind at night. What If I get sick or died tomorrow where will my kids live? Who will care of them, emotionally and financially? Will they have their needs met? What will happen to my material things? Who will take care of my debts? Who will make decisions for me if I ever got too sick or injured to think for myself?
Years ago my not yet husband got our wills done and designated Power Of Attorney. This was an emotional process we felt too young to be confirming our end of life wishes. I didn’t want to think about but it really put my mind at ease. I was able to exhale comfortably knowing my kids would be ok and not re-live my nightmare. My dad unexpectedly passed away without leaving a will. A will is a legal document that specifies who will inherit your assets after you die. You can leave everything to one person or divide it up amongst multiple people.
Creating our wills, (it was recommended we both did our own) helped eliminate some of my anxiety over the “what ifs”. We cannot predict the future but having a legal will is the best way to take responsibility and assure your family is organized and taken care of after your death. Even though we often don’t want to consider it death is inevitable. It is important to have our wishes relayed and met after we are gone. Especially to be sure our kids are not left with our baggage or fighting over money or putting a strain in family relationships. It gives children the time to grieve and alleviates some pressure. They don’t have to stress or guess what our wishes were, everything is outlined in your will. They can take the time they need to grieve vs getting your affairs in order. I feel a will is one of the best gifts a parent can provide for their children. Since my father didn’t have one on his death day I learned why I needed a legal will. I vowed to never put my kids through what I experienced in that situation. I was an emotional mess and was expected to make coherent life decisions with no plan or budget. Shortly after the funeral we got life insurance and spoke about seeing a lawyer to draft our wills.
In your will, you can designate where you would like your minor children to live. You can put your savings in trust until your child(ren) become old enough to manage it. You can divide your assets amongst your children, siblings, family, and friends. You can include funeral and burial information. Your will can be vague or detailed it is individualized to your personal situation and wants.
I also advise designating an executor or your will that you trust with this immense responsibility and the Power of Attorney. This can be the same person who different people. This person will be your advocate when you’re sick or passed away. They will make sure that your wishes are granted. There are many ways to create your will. Some are cheap or even free of charge. I am sure you have seen the advertisements for legal will kits, there are templates online, websites, or you can follow a self-help book. However, I recommend going to an estate lawyer. A licensed lawyer costs start at approximately 150 dollars and can go up to 2000 or more depending on your specific circumstances and how in depth your will is required to be. If you choose not to use a lawyer there is no guarantee as your will may be contested if there are any errors. A will is a legally binding document when done correctly. Using a lawyer will give you the peace of mind that most importantly your children will be taken care of and all your wishes will be honoured.
If you don’t have a legal will there’s no guarantee what will happen when you die. Speaking about it to others is not enough. Writing it on paper is not enough. It is a good start though. You should write down what you want to happen when you’re gone. Be specific.
Some questions to ask yourself are:
- Who would you trust to be the executor or your will
- How much money do you have? Where would you want it allocated? (Your kids, charity. etc.)
- Who would you like to have specific sentimental items, jewelry, heirlooms, etc?
- Who do you want to handle your money, bills, debts, etc?
- List your assets, bank accounts, work and personal insurance policies, property, etc.
If you do not pre-plan and pick someone as the executor your province will appoint a Public Trustee to do so. The settlement of your estate may be a long and drawn out process. Most importantly, you would not be able to name your choice of guardian for your children. Family can step forward to take guardianship but the judge may place the child in The Ministry of Children and Family Services in your province until they have gone in front of a judge. If multiple people come forward to try to obtain guardianship the process may be drawn out longer while your kids live in limbo.
Keep all of your legal documents in a fireproof safe. You may want to include; government identifications, custody agreements, insurance policies, keys to a lockbox, etc. Make sure two trusted people know where to find it.
I am not a lawyer or trying to sell you any will writing service or templates. The information I have provided is what I know to be true from my research and experience with The Canadian Laws. I hope you consider investing in a legal will. It is so easy to procrastinate but life happens and as a parent, we need to protect our children and be prepared. Please, don’t let your kids go through my experience. Please leave a comment if you have anything to add that I have missed.