While everyone loves to make plans for the weekend or their next vacation, many of us avoid making arrangements for what we’d like to happen when we die.
Rachelle Feldhammer is an expert in estate settlement at the Montreal accounting firm Feldhammer Dixon Kwo Inc. The accountant says it’s a common problem, and most people would prefer not to think about. But that would be a mistake.
“People think that if they are not over a certain age that they don’t need to make a will,” noted Feldhammer.
The problem however is that without a will and a chosen executor of your estate, such as your home, vehicle, belongings and other remaining assets, your estate will go to different next of kin depending on what your situation is in life.
According to Nemaska Deputy Chief Noreen Moar, people are often at the band office looking for help after the death of a loved one. That prompted the band council to create estate-planning sessions for the community.
Feldhammer told the Nation that Quebec has a strong notarial system when it comes to wills. Every detail must be filled in so that there is absolutely no guesswork left for those who are left behind. But this is only in cases in which the will has been notarized.
“The first thing is, who is going to handle your estate, who is going to get what and who are your beneficiaries. Then there are other things like who is going to handle things if your beneficiary passes away,” said Feldhammer.
In Quebec’s notarial system for wills, an individual usually must name a backup person to be the executor of their estate in the event that that chosen person passes on before them. Then there are other matters such as whether that person can make unilateral decisions about the estate and decide where portions of the estate would go in the event that the beneficiary dies.
“In cases where someone passes away unexpectedly without a will, things are preset, according to the law. This however is not always something that you want, particularly in cases where the individual may have young children,” said Feldhammer.
While young adults typically don’t have their wills made up, Feldhammer said that if you do have children a will is extremely important because you want to ensure that your children are well cared for by the person of your choosing and that your assets go where they need to be.
When a parent dies unexpectedly, Quebec law stipulates that their assets be divided between the spouse and the children of the deceased, with a third going to the spouse and two-thirds to the children with no restrictions on those funds. Feldhammer noted that giving a young teen a lot of money might not be ideal, as they may not have the maturity to wisely manage the money.
In notarized wills, individuals specify what goes to each individual and often make provisions depending on the beneficiary’s age, such as the case of a parent with children under 18. While parents will often leave portions of their estate to their children, they may want to impose restrictions, for example, that they can only access the funds after a certain age.
According to David Vachon-Roseberry, the lawyer for the Mistissini Band Office, there are three different kinds of wills the province of Quebec will accept: notarial wills, holograph wills (hand written and witnessed by one person), and wills made in the presence of witnesses.
However, he said that wills that aren’t notarized needed to be “probated” or legally made official and that this process involves legal fees and takes time.
So, if you have certain provisions that you want to be carried out immediately after your death, such as in the case of a parent of children under 18, the best thing to do is go to create a notarized will.
“There are a few kinds of wills you can write but the safest way to ensure that your assets go where you want them to go is to go to a notary,” said Vachon-Roseberry.
For more information, check out: www.educaloi.qc.ca/en/capsules/wills