In the last month, I heard two more horror stories of someone not having a will, and another person having zero notes with them.
If you do not have a will, the government will take over your estate through a public trustee. That means you either have incredible faith in the government, or you’re incredibly selfish and do not care about the family members you leave behind. I hope that’s not too vague.
A third of Canadians don’t have a will. Come on people. You ARE leaving behind some bills, a house to sell, or at least someone who has to pay for your funeral, close your bank accounts and just basic stuff.
If it’s simple and you’re single, it’s literally 20 bucks for a software program from Staples that will walk you through the form inside of 15 minutes. Fill in the blanks, pick an executor, print it, sign it, have it witnessed, and give the original in a sealed envelope to someone in your family. If you have dependents, a spouse, etc. a lawyer will charge you around $300 for a simple fill in the blanks will, and they’ll even store it and witness it for you! Just let a family member know which law firm has the original.
More important is what 99% of people do not do, or have never thought of: You need to take half an hour and note down the things your executor and family need, but won’t have, and cannot get:
-Your login and password for your Facebook account. It’ll let them post a note in your account. It’ll let people know you’ve passed away and give them some healing from the many nice notes and memories people will post.
-Your login and password for your email account. They can never get it after your death, so it needs to be in your notes.
-Your banking and asset information such as RRSPs, etc. Remember that the people you leave behind have no clue where your bank accounts are, what they login information is for your online statements, your investments, who your accountant is that has your last tax return, etc.
The first think your executor has to do is to provide an estate lawyer with a list of all your assets and debts as of the date of death. The lawyer then sends all those people a letter to get the balances for the date of death. They can either start hunting them down at $150 or more per hour, or you can simply put together a list of the company, their address, what kind of accounts, and the account number. No, today, your balances won’t be accurate years from now. The balances aren’t important – having the basic information is!
Doing those notes isn’t just an act of love or kindness. It’ll save your estate thousands of dollars, and your executor dozens of hours of work for half an hour of your time this week. Care enough to do it! Put it in a sealed envelope, write “notes for will” on the front of it, and just update it when significant information changes every few years.
And one more thing: I’ve been an executor a number of times. Please pick one that’s really good with details and paperwork and not necessarily the person you trust the most, or that’s the kindest or nicest to you. What they do is all governed by the law and managed by the estate lawyer. It’ll go a year or so faster if you pick a really detailed oriented person.