This Blog was written by Emily Racine, Estate and Trust Consultant with Scotia Wealth Management
As estate planners, we often hear from our clients that they just want a “simple” will. They tell us that they have a “simple” estate and so don’t need any complicated estate planning. Personally, every time I hear this, I begin to tense up. Take it from an estate planner – a simple will does not always lead to a simple estate administration.
Take, for example, the classic example of a simple will. A will which only specifies that all property will go to the surviving spouse and then, when both spouses have passed away, the estate is divided equally to the two kids. This is about as simple a will as you can draft. However, this type of will doesn’t always tell the full story of the family or of the assets of clients. What about personal items of sentimental value that the children may start feuding over? What if both children want to live in the family home that is now part of the estate? What if there was some planning to be done to save in taxes or estate fees? None of this is addressed in this so-called simple will.
To take it a step further, a simple will without many of the administrative clauses we normally see can seriously hamper an executor in doing their job efficiently and cost effectively. While no one likes to see twelve pages of “legalese” clauses at the end of a will, those clauses are included because executors may need them and, when they have not been there in the past, they have created case-law to help estate planners learn from those oversights.
A good estate plan considers all of these questions and all of these possible scenarios. It dives deeper than the surface level of what a client thinks they may want. These requests for a simple will usually come from the best place – clients want to make the transition easy on the next generation and so strive to set things up simply. However, it is only after the clients have passed away and the true work of estate administration comes in that one sees that a few more “complex” clauses and a deeper dive into the wishes of the clients could have prevented family feuds, could have saved the estate money, and could have brought more peace of mind to the loved ones left behind.
For some families, a simple will may work out perfectly fine. However, the only way to be sure is to get the advice of a qualified estate practitioner and be willing to have complex conversations that will result in a simplified process of administration.
doris bonoraNovember 4, 2021 - 2:47 pm
excellent points…if I had a quarter for every “simple” will I have been asked to create, I could retire early!!!
Jill NelsonNovember 4, 2021 - 5:47 pm
Ironically, I heard from my own parents about this yesterday. They had realized that both their “simple” wills appoint the other as estate trustee, but my dad isn’t confident about his ability to administer mum’s estate if she goes first. I reassured him that that’s exactly why they had a lawyer prepare the will — lawyers look at possible future scenarios and plan for them. So of course, there is an alternate estate trustee provided for.
This illustrates so clearly why it is ideal to have a lawyer prepare your will.
Suzanne TheriaultNovember 5, 2021 - 4:49 pm
Excellent article Emily and you have really emphasized the importance of having sufficient powers and clauses inserted in the Will as well as the need to carefully consider the distribution of all assets including those of sentimental value.