A last will is critical to have before you pass away. Without a will, your estate may not go to exactly who you had hoped. If you are wondering what your estate includes and whether or not you even need to worry, think of everything you own. From cars to clothing and from houses to investments, your estate consists of any asset that has monetary value. If those belongings matter to you or you know they’d matter to a loved one, you need a will.
Logically, you would want to know what will happen to your personal assets after you die with or without a will. Well, upon your death (expected or unexpected), your estate can be transferred in two ways:
- Following a last will you’ve written before the death
- Following government regulations, if you die without a will
What happens to your assets if you do have a will?
If you have a written will, your chosen executor will follow through with your wishes for your assets after you die. Your executor is the person you decide to carry out the terms of your will.
Your will can include how you want your money to be split, who gets the house, the car, the vacation home, and even your pet! You can add as many wishes in your testament as you want, as long as they are realistic and achievable, of course.
When you’re writing your will, remember to make it as clear as you can with all the necessary instructions and details. Writing a complex will can result in extra costs for the beneficiaries or even a conflict, and you won’t be there to clarify things for them.
For that reason, it’s always helpful to have a legal advisor help you write the will during your estate planning. They have previous experience in this area and the legal knowledge to help you make your intention clear and easy to understand. Also, the fee they charge for simple will writing is often low, so it won’t cost you much to have someone to guide you and point out some common issues that people typically forget.
Additional Reading for Smart Estate Planning
- Who needs a will? And why?
- 3 moments when you should review your estate plan
- Is creating a will online safe?
- What happens to your assets after you die?
- Who is responsible for your debt after you pass away?
- How much does it cost to die?
- Do families fight over estates?
- Are you planning a death dinner (to discuss your wishes after you're gone)?
- Can you protect your digital assets?
- Life insurance and estate planning in the age of COVID-19
- International property and the problem with multiple taxes after death
What happens to your assets if you do not have a will?
Many people leave out the opportunity of having their last wishes heard and don’t write a will, whether intentionally or unintentionally. If you fall into this category and haven’t left a will, certain complications may happen when different regulations fall into place.
Dying without a will is also known as dying intestate. When this happens, the city or province you reside in when you pass will follow the regulations set forth.
Under most provincial laws, though, when you die, all of your assets and property get transferred to your spouse. That is, as long as you don’t have any children. If you have children, your spouse will receive a percentage of the property, and the rest will be split between the spouse and children equally.
However, if you’ve been in a common-law marriage or living together unmarried, your spouse won’t enjoy the same benefits. Your significant other won’t receive anything if you die, regardless of how long you’ve been living together. Your heirs are those considered to be your “next of kin,” meaning your children, if you have any. If you don’t, then your surviving parents are the inheritors of your estate. Next in line would be siblings, followed by nephews or nieces who would split your estate equally.
Even if no sibling is alive to claim your estate and you die intestate, the government gets everything you have.
As you can see, your common-law partner is in quite an unappealing situation when it comes to wills and inheritance, so if you want to ensure that you’ve protected them and your assets after you die to ensure they receive a share of your estate, having a will that states this is a must. Otherwise, they won’t be legally entitled to anything.
What are some special government regulations you should know?
When a person dies without leaving a will, a court process to select an executor is initiated, better known as probate. The person who is titled the executor (or estate trustee) needs to receive a Certificate of Appointment from the court that will grant them legal authority to perform the duties laid out in the will.
Jointly held property with rights of survivorship
Estates with rights of survivorships are a particular type of concurrent estate in which both owners have a so-called right of survivorship. This right of survivorship means that if one owner of the estate dies, the surviving owner gets their full interest in the property, regardless of the probate.
If you have life insurance, the sole beneficiary of it is the person you’ve named on your policy. Even if you have a will stating otherwise, it won’t be taken into consideration as the life insurance policy is considered legally more powerful. The only way you could change the life insurance beneficiary is by breaking it directly with the insurance company.
Simply put, it’s essential to plan and make sure that the way you organize your assets will keep enough flexibility for you to be able to meet your current financial needs and goals.
Every city and province may regulate wills and testaments differently, so before even writing a will, it would be good to check the regulations in your state so that you’re aware of what the requirements are.
If you feel inexperienced in the financial or estate planning side of your will, you can always consult a financial or legal professional. They can give you their insight on how you can accurately organize your personal assets throughout your life and after it, and more importantly, how to write your will to ensure your close ones will get their fair share.