Getting your will prepared is generally not on the top of most peoples’ to-do lists.
But it should be, says James Steele, who practices in litigating will and estate disputes with Saskatoon’s Robertson Stromberg LLP.
That’s because having a document to instruct how your assets are divided once you are gone, greatly assists those loved ones you leave behind.
But just drafting a will isn’t always enough.
To avoid the chance that your will is challenged after you pass away, there are some steps which you can take. And that’s why it’s beneficial to have a lawyer help you.
“There are, increasingly, more home-made will kits which can save you some money. But they offer a greater chance that a person may make a mistake, such as having the wrong number or type of witnesses, or use the wrong language to gift property,” Steele says. “As well, without a lawyer to independently take notes of what your intentions are, there is a higher chance that someone might challenge your will.”
For a relatively modest charge, you can have a professional lawyer help you draw up a will. The lawyer will ensure you use the right language to gift specific property. The lawyer will also properly witness your mental fitness at the time of its creation and document evidence to show that you acted without coercion. This evidence can potentially save tens of thousands of dollars in future legal fees, should someone later decide to challenge your will.
Challenges to wills are becoming increasingly common. “As one generation leaves property to the next, there is a sizeable transfer of wealth, especially with farmland prices currently remaining so high,” Steele says. “And when you have estates of a considerable size, the incentive for someone to feel they might have wrongly been left out of a will and challenge it becomes more likely.”
Steele routinely represents people who are challenging a will, as well as those who are defending a will from being challenged.
“What I am finding more and more, is that with a little bit of effort to communicate your wishes to your family, it can prevent a lot of lengthy will challenges.”
Steele says it’s a good idea to talk with those who will be directly affected by your will’s provisions.
“A good way to avoid a will challenge is to sit down all the beneficiaries, and tell them directly what each are getting, and why,” he says. “If you do that, it’s much less likely one of them will later have concerns about what your intentions were, and decide to challenge the will.”
The above is for general information only. Parties should always seek legal advice prior to taking action in specific situations.