Will week

Will Week eliminates excuses

April 29, 2016

Two things really shocked me over the last 10 days. The first was hearing that Prince had died. I had seen him play in Los Angeles in 1981 as a total unknown, then was honoured to be at the MTS Centre for his most recent show, one of the highlights of my concert life. (If you’re a fan or want to know why others are - search Prince Performs “Purple” Rain During Downpour – Super Bowl XLI. Five tunes. Amazing.)

My related shock was I heard CBC Radio report this week that Prince had died without a Will. Holy estate litigation lawyer fees, Batman! A possible legal bonanza of Michael Jacksonian proportions.

So, this means that generic laws and competing lawyers will decide how Prince’s sizeable estate will be divided, likely many years down the road. Probably not what he would have chosen.

You have no such excuse to cause your family that kind of trouble and expense, for May 2-6 is Will Week in Manitoba, where a coalition of wonderful groups come together to answer your estate planning questions and make it easy for you to create and sign a valid Will. (For you grammar purists, I am incorrectly capitalizing “Will” for clarity.)

The Winnipeg Foundation spearheads this great initiative each year, in conjunction with The Manitoba Bar Association and the Public Guardian and Trustee of Manitoba. Information seminars are being held every day next week. They are free, but you must register in advance.

All of the info can be found at www.wpgfdn.org under “Foundation Initiatives” then “Inspiring “Legacies” then “Will Week”. A proper search brings you right to the appropriate page.

To register for education sessions in Winnipeg, you can call (204) 948-3394 or by emailing pgt@gov.mb.ca In Brandon, for sessions on May 3, 4 and 5, the sponsor is the Brandon Area Foundation, (204) 571-0529 or info@bacf.ca

Lawyers are donating their time to do these presentations and answer questions on powers of attorney and health care directives, as well as Wills.

These seminars do not constitute legal advice, because such advice needs to be customized to each person’s situation, after a lawyer who specializes in estates has had a chance to properly interview that person and learn all of the relevant facts about their situation. However, the information made available will be very valuable, if you are updating or creating a new Will.

The need for personalization underscores that fact that almost everyone benefits from a Will prepared by a lawyer. I don’t support the Do-It-Yourself approach, or will kits, as there are a lot of complexities and subtleties in making sure a Will is valid, is clear in its instructions and will not be contested. A well-crafted Will and estate plan may reduce fees, taxes and legal expenses, as well as making the estate settlement process less cumbersome for your family.

Your Will outlines your wishes for the distribution of your estate, which may be quite different than the Manitoba laws on intestacy. As well, it names your personal representative – your executor or executrix – and provides them with authorization to do things like tax planning and filing tax elections, collecting money owed to you, and how they can invest your estate while waiting to distribute.

To me, a proper Will is one tool to give your family more room to grieve, instead of being embroiled in the type of legal morass that can result without a Will.

Whether attending the Will Week seminars or not, make it your goal to review your current Will and make sure it’s up to date, or for goodness sake create one, if you don’t have one.

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Dollars and Sense is meant as an introduction to this topic and should not in any way be construed as a replacement for personalized professional advice.Please consult legal, tax, insurance and investment experts for advice on your unique situation.

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David Christianson, BA, CFP, R.F.P., TEP, CIM is a Certified Financial Planner and senior advisor with Christianson Wealth Advisors, a Vice President with National Bank Financial Wealth Management, and author of the book Managing the Bull, A No-Nonsense Guide to Personal Finance.