There’s a consensus among notaries, including a few in Langley, that COVID-19 has changed a lot of people’s thinking about wills.
The pandemic this past year and a half has served as a vivid reminder to a lot of people not to put off planning for the inevitable future.
In 2020, an online Ipsos survey of 801 B.C. residents showed 50 per cent of adults have an up-to-date legal will, and the number appears to be climbing.
But there’s still a lot without one.
And, while notaries have noted a significant increase in calls on the subject, the B.C. declaration of Make a Will week – which runs until Oct. 9 – serves as another change for notaries to encourage family discussions on the matter, and to remind them to connect with a trusted professional to get a will drawn up – sooner rather than later.
A well-considered legal will provides peace of mind for the individual preparing it, as well as for their family and friends left to execute their wishes, assures Willowbrook-area notary public Lilian Cazacu.
Anyone who has real estate or children, especially, should have a current will or estate plan. If this deadly virus has reminded people of anything, it’s that those who don’t have a will should stop procrastinating, noted Flavia Zancope, a notary in Willoughby.
“We like to talk about the weather all the time, but one conversation topic that doesn’t come up often is estate planning,” Zancope said.
“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,” she added.
It’s important for people to understand the consequences, if they don’t have these documents in place.
For those who don’t have a will, the court will appoint an administrator to manage their estate; this results in additional legal fees and sometimes extra income taxes.
Now, the number of homeowners with wills is increasing; it appears they’re getting the message. But still, less than half of parents with dependent children have wills in place.
That means if the public guardian and trustee is brought in to administer the estate, the province may then decide on the future of dependent children and assets.
“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,” Zancope said.
Cazacu takes the advisory a step further, in noting a will is important, but so too is an overall estate plan.
He pointed to one example in Aldergrove, where a widower in her late 60s was devastated to learn only two of their three adult children would inherit anything because of poor planning on their part.
The family owned a “big property” which they subdivided into two. One property was gifted to their eldest child, and the middle child was added to the title on the second property, where Mom lives, making them joint tenants. Bottom line, when Mom passes, the third child holds no claim to inherit any of the property.
“There are no words to describe the disappointment in her eyes,” Cazacu said, “knowing that the two kids who were mistreating her have inherited most of her property and the younger son, who was taking care of her, would not inherit anything…”
Eventually, the woman and the notary did find a partial solution. The woman severed her joint tenancy and recovered 1/3 of her own property.
“This is just an example, showing that an estate plan can be affected by so many little decisions in our life – especially, how we get registered on the title of our real estate properties – since those are the biggest pieces of our estate,” Cazacu said.
“Therefore, my ultimate advice to all of those who are married, with children, and have a real estate property is that they must make their estate plan as soon as possible, to avoid any of these types of implications,” he concluded.
“And working with a legal professional gives you peace of mind, so you don’t have to wonder about the validity of your… will,” Zancope added.
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