Estate Planning for Parents
Becoming a parent is a life-changing experience. All of the sudden, you have someone other than yourself to consider which can be an overwhelming realization. Planning for the future of your children should something happen to you can be a difficult thing to think about for many. In fact, 48% of Canadians do not have a last will and testament.
Why you should have a Will
Your will enables you to decide who will inherit your property when you die. Without one, how your assets are divided and who will be the guardian of your children is decided by the courts.
Therefore, as a parent, there are two major reasons to have your estate plan in place. The first, is to ensure that you are able to outline how you'd like your assets distributed. The second, is to assign a guardian, of your choosing, for your children.
Choosing a Guardian
Discussing who will raise your children should you die isn't an easy topic. If you have a partner, the best course of action is to begin the discussion with them. It may take some time to come to an agreement on who your ideal guardian(s) should be. Once you have an agreed choice, you must then speak to the potential guardian to see if they are willing.
While your will outlines who will become their legal guardian, it will not explain how you wish to have your children raised. Possible items to outline in this conversation are your chosen parenting styles, educational approaches, core values, discipline opinions and any family traditions or rituals you would like to see upheld.
The most important element here is the balance you'd like between your spouse and your children. You may decide to leave everything to your spouse until they die, who would then leave everything to the children. You may instead decide on a certain amount for your spouse and children. If you and your partner die at the same time, you must include the age you would like your children to be granted access to the estate.
Major life events, like marriage or the addition of a child to the family can affect the validity of your estate plan. Marriage revokes any existing will and guardian assignments. Divorce will also revoke any existing arrangements. However, couples that are separated but not legally divorced are still bound to the original Will. This means that your ex-partner could benefit from your Will, even if you have since met someone else. Common-law spouses are not considered “spouses” under the NS Intestate Succession Act unless they are in a Registered Domestic partnership. However, they can apply to court for support or a share of the estate.
Adding additional family members may add some complications to your asset distribution plan. In such cases, you may look at preparing individual wills for each child in the family rather than mirrored wills where everyone receives the same amount.
While these conversations can be difficult and overwhelming, it is important to put yourself in the driver's seat of your own legacy to ensure the safety of your loved ones should the unexpected occur.
NOTE: This is a brief overview for information only and is not a full description of the law. If you have any questions about preparing a Will and Guardian assignment, please don't hesitate to reach out.