A straightforward blog article today with a simple question; “do your parents have their Last Will and Testaments in place, and updated to reflect their current wishes and circumstances?”. We know that about 60-70% of people don’t have a Will in place, and most of these are not kept up-to-date, but I am guessing that a very few number of people have had the discussion with their parents regarding their estate plans. There are obvious reasons for this; first is the misconception that a talking about estate planning is tantamount to telling them that they’re about to die. This is of course a strange notion because few people plan their death, but everybody should have their estate plan in place.
The other misplaced notion is that you would be prying into the financial affairs of your parents. Of course, asking if your parents have a Will does not require that you are privy to the contents of that Will. Parents can just let you know that yes, they have a Will, you may be the Executor of that Will, the rest can wait until after they have passed away.
Why do you even need to know if a Will is in place? Because a parent dying with a Will, and a parent dying without a Will are two very different experiences.
When a single remaining parent passes away and their Will is in place, the Executor takes that Will to the probate courts, is granted permission to administer the estate and take care of the funeral plans. With this court document they are able to go to the banks and financial institutions and gather the assets of the estate to be distributed according to the wishes outline in the Will. Everything can be resolved in a matter of weeks.
Without a Will different people may apply to the courts to administer the estate. No asset can be touched until the court appointed administrator has been assigned. The estate will then be distributed according to the laws of that jurisdiction which may require certain assets for example, real estate, to be liquidated. The whole process is likely to take months rather than weeks, no asset can be touched in the meantime and the distribution of the assets will not likely match the wishes of the person who died. Arguments and family divisions are far more likely with children squabbling over everything from the funeral plans to the ownership of individual items. And there is actually quite a high probability that some assets are never even discovered.
Parents who die without a Will end up creating problems for their children, so have the discussion. Just ask if a Will is in place and ask if it has been updated in recent memory. You need not pry and you are not hastening the demise of your parents by asking the question. If the answer is no, you should let them know that it need not be expensive, and can be done in 30 minutes or less at sites like LegalWills.ca, LegalWills.co.uk and USLegalWills.com.