Let’s Talk About Wills and Estate Planning

by Flavia Zancope

We Brazilians like to talk, but one conversation topic that doesn’t come up often is estate planning. This is true for Canadians and Brazilians alike. While death can make for unpleasant chit-chat, proper estate planning, including creating a last will and testament, can make your passing easier for your family and loved ones. Here are a few reasons why.

A Guardian for Your Children
If you have children under the age of 19, a will is especially important. You can use your will to appoint somebody to care for them. If you die without a will, your children will transition through foster care while your loved ones work with the courts to determine guardianship. This process takes time: First, someone has to apply to be the guardian; then the courts conduct an investigation before assigning permanent guardianship.

Avoid Legal Fees and Paperwork Hassles
Unlike Brazil, a valid up-to-date will in Canada saves your family from having to hire a lawyer to oversee the transfer of your assets. Estate law here is governed by the provinces and territories, so the first step is to learn about the legislation in your jurisdiction. Find out how each province and territory handles estate law here.

Where Does a Will Apply?
You need to create a separate will for each jurisdiction you have assets in. For example, if you have a home in Alberta, a timeshare in BC, a boat in Florida, and a rental property in São Paulo, you need a will in each.

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What About Immigration Status?
When it comes to wills, your immigration status doesn’t matter. If you are in Canada long enough to open a bank account, creating a will is a smart idea.

Let’s say you are a student studying in Canada. If you were to die unexpectedly, someone in your family would need to apply to the court to be appointed the administrator of your estate, even if your Canadian assets consist of only a bank account and credit card. By creating a will, you avoid the fees and paperwork associated with court-appointed estate administration.

How to Create a Will
There are several options. You can hire a notary or lawyer to draft a will, or you can use a do-it-yourself kit. The advantage of hiring a notary or lawyer is the experience and legal knowledge they bring to the process. Working with a legal professional gives you peace of mind, so you don’t have to wonder about the validity of your homemade will.

Estate Planning: It’s Worth the Talk
From easing your family’s bureaucratic burden to leaving a legacy of giving to looking after your children, there are so many reasons for creating a will. All it takes is a conversation with your loved ones and an appointment with your notary or legal professional.

If you don’t have a will, the province will appoint an administrator to manage your estate; this results in additional legal fees and sometimes extra income taxes. By taking care of the details ahead of time, you can put your loved ones in a better financial and administrative position, so they can grieve without dealing with time-consuming paperwork and costly legal fees.

Flavia Zancope is a Notary Public living in Vancouver, BC, where she is the owner of Zancope Notary Public (zancopenotary.com).