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Primer on Wills and Estates

What is a will?

A will is just a list of instructions to be carried out after you die.

What is an estate?

An estate is the collection of property and debts you have when you die.

What is an executor/executrix?

An executor is the person you appoint in your will to take care of your property and debts when you die: you entrust them to carry out your instructions on your behalf. In Ontario, we now call an executor the “estate trustee”.

What is probate?

Probate fees are a levy charged on your estate by the provincial government. The fee is calculated as a percentage of your assets when you die.

What difference does it make if I don’t have a will when I die.

Your property might go to people you don’t intend. There might be a dispute about who will be your executor. You might be liable for more taxes than if you had planned for your death.

How much does a will cost?

About the same as a couple of hours of your lawyer’s time.

Is it good value?

You only pay for a few hours of your lawyer’s time, but you get lots of value for money: an initial consultation, ongoing consultation for questions you might think of; research if needed; drafting and review; and signing time.

A well-crafted will saves your heirs thousands of dollars they might otherwise have to pay in legal fees to sort out your estate if you die without a will.

Why should I have a lawyer do it, when I can buy a kit at the store?

There is no single solution to every individual’s estate plan. A good will must be tailored to your individual facts. Your particular scenario must be interpreted according to statute and common law. Estate law is very intricate, and it pays to have experienced help. Your will is a document unique to you.

My spouse and I have the same instructions for when we die. Can we just get one will?

Each individual in a couple has to have his or her own will.

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