Estates & Wills & Trusts

Make a Will Month as good a time as any to get affairs in order: Kirsh

By AdvocateDaily.com Staff

Adults of all ages should have a will in place, Toronto trust and estate litigator Felice Kirsh tells AdvocateDaily.com.

November is the Ontario Bar Association’s (OBA) Make a Will Month, and Kirsh, a partner with Schnurr Kirsh Oelbaum Tator LLP, says she welcomes any initiative that gets people thinking about the issue.

“There is no good reason not to have a will — any time is a good time to make one,” she says. “I definitely think young adults should have a will. You need one in place as soon as you start making money in your first job, and certainly when you are married or have kids,” she says.

“It’s responsible behaviour to make a will, and if you don’t, it’s like putting your head in the sand,” Kirsh adds.

In her years of practice, Kirsh has heard all manner of excuses for people’s failure to get a will in place, including from some who say they don’t have the time and others with a superstitious fear it will hasten their death.

And while contemplating your own mortality is not always the most appealing prospect, Kirsh says it’s worth it in the end for the peace of mind that comes with dictating the future of your property after your death.

She explains that when someone dies intestate, their assets are instead distributed according to strict rules set out in the Succession Law Reform Act (SLRA).

According to the law, the deceased’s surviving spouse gets the first $200,000 from the estate, with the remainder divided one third to the spouse and two thirds equally among the children. If there is just one child, the remainder is equally split with the spouse.

If there is more than one child, then the spouse gets one-third of the amount over $200,000, and the remaining two-thirds are divided equally among all the children.

However, Kirsh points out that the SLRA does not take into account the individual circumstances of the deceased, which can lead to problems especially if the deceased has anything but a conventional family arrangement.

The OBA initiative is designed to spread the word to the public about the importance not only of having a will but of having them drafted by lawyers.

Kirsh says testators who want to be sure their wishes will be fulfilled after they’re gone should resist the temptation to draw up their own documents based on will kits that can be bought on the internet or at stationery stores.

“You wouldn't be your own lawyer when buying a house, so don’t do it when you’re making a will,” she warns.

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