Why you don’t want to die without a will

If you live outside of Quebec, please see this article.

Every physician knows that failing to take basic healthcare steps or not having good medical records at your disposal can be disastrous. Not taking basic estate planning steps or dying without a will can also have significant negative consequences.

Here are the five of the biggest reasons you don’t want to die without a will.

1. You decide who gets what, rather than leaving it in the hands of the provincial government.

Your will enables you to control how and when your assets are transferred to your loved ones. If you don’t have a valid will (known as dying “intestate”) and you do not have a marriage contract stipulating that your surviving spouse will inherit all of your property, your assets will be distributed according to the provisions of the Civil Code of Québec.  And that formula might be very different from what you would have hoped.

2. You decide who handles your affairs.

The personal representative named in your will — the liquidator — is the person or trust company who manages and administers your estate when you die. Among many tasks, the liquidator is responsible for managing your professional corporation, dealing with your patient files, protecting and taking an inventory of your assets, valuing and distributing your assets to your legatees, or even selling them, filing all income tax returns for your estate, and obtaining clearance certificates from the appropriate tax authorities for the distribution of assets. 

If you do not have a will or the liquidator you have named is not prepared to fulfill this role, it will generally take longer to administer your estate. If your heirs (or their representatives, if they are minors) do not appoint a liquidator themselves, then the court may have to appoint an acting liquidator upon application by an interested party.

If you’re unsure who should be the liquidator of your will, you can name MD Private Trust Company as your professional liquidator. If you choose this service, the people you care about will be spared the challenge of settling your estate during an already difficult time.

3. You want to leave specifics about how your family is looked after.

Without a valid will, you have no control over how assets are distributed to your family or how estate money is managed. For example, in your will you can create trusts for your children, so funds are held for their benefit until they are mature enough or experienced enough to decide what to do with the money. Without these trusts in your will, if your children are minors, the Public Curator may become involved if there is no provision stating that your children will not receive the estate money until they reach the age of majority.

It is also important to consider who should be responsible for the care of any children who are minors. Your will is the ideal place to express who you believe is best for that important task, and a great way to ensure the duties and responsibilities of the guardian(s), liquidator and trustee of the trusts you have established in your will are all aligned in the best interests of your children.

If you have not named a guardian in your will, an application will have to be made to the court to appoint one, which involves additional costs and delays.

4. There may be others you want to provide for.

If you have elderly parents you are caring for, or family members with special needs, you won’t be able to properly provide for them or plan for their care without specific instructions in your will, and by providing a testamentary trust for them. Also, if there are charitable organizations, friends, or other family members to whom you want to leave money, assets or heirlooms, then you need to do this in a valid will.

5. You leave more for your beneficiaries.

Upon your death, all your personally owned and joint accounts will be “frozen” by the financial institution, meaning that no one can write cheques or pay bills from such accounts. 

To be authorized to complete transactions on your personally owned accounts, the liquidator must first have the will probated, if it is not notarized, which can take several weeks. The liquidator must also ensure that it is in fact the last will by conducting the required research in the records of the Chambre des notaires du Québec and the Barreau du Québec. Having a current will and naming a liquidator in your will avoids unnecessary costs, delays, and a possible decline in value of your assets.

When drafting your will, be sure to consider the tax implications of your bequests. An MD Private Trust Company Estate and Trust Advisor can help you understand this.

Taking the time to prepare a will goes a long way toward ensuring your assets are distributed in the way you wish — and it will certainly minimize the burden on your loved ones after you pass away.

To learn more about creating an estate plan, contact your MD Advisor*.

* MD Advisor refers to an MD Management Limited Financial Consultant or Investment Advisor (in Quebec), or an MD Private Investment Counsel Portfolio Manager. 

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