What if you died without a will?

31 October 2018 by National Bank
dying without a will

It's easy to put off writing your will. To ensure that your loved ones don't just inherit a huge headache, here's what you need to know and do to have some peace of mind.

Planning: Think about your will!

The process spells out how you would like things handled when you pass on. Having a will protects you in case of incapacity and helps distribute your assets, cover funeral costs, ensure your wishes are met and draw up the best tax strategies for your heirs. Above all, a will prevents your death from becoming a source of conflict.

The law is the law

If you don't have a will, the law will determine who your heirs are and what assets they are entitled to. The legal system makes no distinction between your life situation and that of any other citizen: the rules are the same for everyone. Only a will and a specific set of measures will ensure that your wishes are respected.

You are in a common-law union

Should you die, your common-law spouse won't inherit anything—not property, not money, nothing—regardless of the number of years spent together. Your family members (children, siblings, parents) could automatically inherit all of your assets.

If you have children and are de facto or legally separated but not divorced, a third of your estate will go to your spouse and two thirds will be shared equally between your kids (of a marriage or common-law union).

You are married or in civil union

If you don't have children, once marital assets have been liquidated, your spouse will inherit two thirds of the estate and the remaining third will go to your parents.

If, upon your death, your parents are deceased, your siblings will share your estate equally.

If you don't have any children, parents, siblings, nieces or nephews, your spouse will inherit your entire estate.

You are not legally divorced

Without a will, your ex-spouse will legally inherit everything, regardless of the nature and year of the separation. Since you are still married in the eyes of the law, your former spouse will take precedence over your children.

Ready to write your will? Here are your options.

The law recognizes three types of will. In terms of planning, the notarial will continues to be the safest way to cover all possible scenarios at death. For example, what if your children are still minors? Or, what if you die in a car accident with your entire family? It's a complex task, but a legal expert can help your heirs avoid a wide range of problems.

The two other options are the handwritten holograph will and the will made before witnesses. Watch out, as these wills need to be approved by a notary or by the court to be deemed valid.

Power of attorney: As important as your will

To prevent potential divisive family conflicts if you are no longer able to make decisions, you should designate a person (mandatary) to act in your interest when you are drawing up your will with the notary. A power of attorney is crucial if your health worsens to the point where you can no longer manage your wealth, including your finances, payments, bank transfers and other daily obligations.

Estate settlement

An executor/liquidator is the person you designate to settle the terms of your estate and inheritance according to your wishes and following the applicable laws. Get to know the different options and solutions we offer, such as a personal or family trust. They can give you tax advantages and protect some of your assets.

The reality of life

If you value the peace of mind of your loved ones, think about creating an estate plan—sooner rather than later.

To find out the rules specific to your situation, consult a lawyer or a notary.

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