By Alf Dick, Honest Alf – the Little Guy Lawyer
(2nd in a series of 4 blog posts)
Okay, so you are convinced you need a Will (if not, please see Part 1!) – but you might ask” “what will it do for you and what will it cost?”
First of all, you have to remember that a Will speaks as of the day you die, not the day that you sign it, and this means that it deals with the assets that you own on the day of your death. Obviously, if you know exactly when you will die and exactly what you will own on that day, preparing a Will would be pretty simple. Since we don’t have such precise information, a Will must be worded in somewhat general terms – for example, “any residence which I own at my death” although it can also deal with specific items that you are reasonably sure that you will own at your death, such as a specific life insurance policy. Because the Will speaks as of your date of death, it can be changed by you at any time during your lifetime provided that you are mentally capable, and it is common advice that a person review his or her Will every 5 to 6 years in order to make sure that it deals with changes in your life.
A major benefit of having a valid Will is the fact that you have appointed an Estate Trustee (we used to call this person “the Executor”) who has power to deal with your estate immediately upon your death – an Estate Trustee needs no Court Order in order to administer your assets and this can be a cost saving for your Estate.
What else does a Will do for you? It makes sure that your assets are dealt with in accordance with your wishes – this is the “gift plan” – rather than have government legislation do it for you. And that gift plan can be as simple or as complicated as you desire.
And this brings us to the cost of a Will. Of course, this will vary from one lawyer to another but it is possible to have one done for a few hundred dollars but more complicated Wills involving such things as Trusts or Insurance Designations will be more expensive. However, a Will properly prepared by an expert, such as a lawyer, can, in the long run, save money and perhaps taxes for your beneficiaries.
You can buy a Will kit and prepare your own Will but it’s like doing your own plumbing at home – you had better know what you are doing. It may be cheaper in the short term but, if you don’t do it correctly, you could cost your Estate a lot of money in legal expenses if its wording is vague or contradictory because, in that case a judge may have to decide what your Will really says. Our advice? Seek out an expert – a lawyer with experience in drawing Wills.