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Estates & Wills & Trusts

Without a will, family often left with unintended consequences

Dying without a will may have unintended consequences on one’s family members, Toronto wills and estates lawyer Matthew Urback tells Law Times.

Urback, an associate with Shibley Righton LLP’s Toronto office, says that without a will, one’s estate is then divvied up by the courts based on governing legislation and the personal situation of the deceased. But that process, he says, may not be what the deceased person would have wanted.

Another problem with not having a will, says Urback, is that the person probably didn’t take advantage of any tax-saving opportunities, which will likely mean that there will be less left over for beneficiaries.

“People should be entitled to deal with their assets in death as they are in life — basically, however, they want. But if you don’t have a will, you’re not taking advantage of that right. That means someone else is going to make that decision for you,” he says.

If there’s a family member willing to represent the estate, Urback says that person will have to apply to the court for a “certificate of appointment of estate trustee without a will.” But if they never discussed estate planning with the person, they won’t be much help in posthumously determining wishes.  

Law Times says an online poll by the Angus Reid Institute revealed that 51 per cent of Canadians don’t have a will.

“It found that those aged 55 and older are nearly four times more likely to have wills than those between the ages of 18 and 34 and twice as likely as those between the ages of 35 and 54,” according to the online legal publication.

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