Your parents don’t have a Will? oh dear!

We’ve devoted a great deal of space on this blog trying to convince people of the importance of writing their own Will. Most people should by now realize how important it is, but they just have to overcome the procrastination. After all, up to 70 percent of adults do not have a Last Will and Testament in place and of those that do, most are not kept up-to-date.

So lets turn change the focus of the discussion; supposing I was to tell you that your parents don’t have a Will in place, after all, statistically they probably don’t. Let’s make it more fun and imagine that you have siblings.

Unfortunately your father dies; what happens next? You think you can start sharing out your father’s possessions? think again. Your father’s estate temporarily becomes property of the court system; after all, there may be taxes to be paid, and that is going to be step number one. Funeral expenses will also have to come out of his estate.

Then the courts will appoint an administrator of the estate; they have to make sure that the estate is divided up according to the pre-determined laws of your jurisdiction. You don’t all just move in and take your pickings, and no, your mother won’t simply receive everything either. You should take a look at intestate succession laws for your jurisdiction.

  • Let’s take for example Ontario. If a person dies without a Will then the spousal share is $200k. If there is a spouse and more than one children then the estate is divided so that your mother will receive her spousal share, then the remainder is split so that she will receive a third, and the children will share two-thirds.
  • In Florida it is the same principle, just slightly different numbers. The spousal share is $60k, then everything left over it split: half to the spouse, the other half to be shared between any children.
  • In the UK, the spouse gets the first £125k and half of the remainder, with the other half shared between the children.

That might not sound so bad to you, but you will not be the ones determining how the estate will be resolved; if you receive a half of two-thirds after the first $200k, what exactly will you receive? Will everything that your father owned be sold off and you receive the cash. The court administrator will decide. Have you always wanted a certain family heirloom? you probably won’t receive it. And when exactly will you receive your inheritance? could be months, could be years. It depends on how quickly the court system will move for you and how complicated the estate is. If these spousal share numbers seem high; don’t forget, most houses would put an estate above the threshold of a spousal share.

Now just supposing your father had taken a few minutes to put his wishes for estate distribution on paper. He may have named you as Executor. He probably would have named your mother as the sole beneficiary (don’t worry, you’ll get your inheritance from your mother’s Will). He might have made a note that you should receive that family heirloom. Most importantly, there would be no liquidating of assets, there would be no family fighting. You would be able to concentrate on the emotional aspect of losing your father rather than watching the court administrator sell off your father’s possessions.

Now finally have a think about what you are doing to your family and friends if you don’t take the time to put your own Will together. In 30 minutes at LegalWills you can save your own loved ones the trauma described above. It just seems like a sensible thing to do. Oh, and next time you meet up with your parents, ask them if they have a Will in place? you almost have a right to know.