March 31 – April 6 marks Make-a-Will Week in British Columbia. Its purpose is to encourage the public to have a Will prepared or bring an existing Will up-to-date.
Make-a-Will Week 2014 coincides with the Wills, Estate and Succession Act (WESA) coming into force on March 31, 2014. WESA does not invalidate Wills written before March 31, 2014. However, some of the laws about interpreting Wills have changed, so individuals may wish to review their existing Will with their advisors to make sure their wishes can be upheld.
If you don’t have a Will, you’re not alone. According to a 2014 report for BC Notaries, 55 per cent of British Columbians have a signed, legally valid and up-to-date Will (up from 49 per cent in 2010). With the introduction of WESA, there is an added reason to ensure your Will is up to date, or if you haven’t yet made a Will, to go to a lawyer or notary public to have one made.
A Will is the best way to ensure that the people, charities and organizations you cherish most receive the benefit of your estate.
If you die without a Will, your estate may not be distributed in the way you would have wished and the costs of administering your estate may also be higher. Having a Will helps ensure that important questions for parents – like who will raise your young children if both you and your spouse die – are answered.
A Will is also the simplest way to provide for gifts to your charities of choice.
Anyone who can make a Will can make a gift to charity. You can start fresh or you can add a provision to an existing Will by signing a codicil.
You might set aside a certain dollar amount or leave a percentage of your estate or any assets left over after you have provided for your family. If you want to designate your gift for a specific purpose, it is best to check with the charity to get the specific wording to ensure your wishes are met.
Your gift is revocable – you can alter the terms as your circumstances change. This gives you some flexibility in planning your financial matters because the gift is not received until your estate is settled.
Make sure the name of the charity is correct in your Will – ask the charity for the legal name. Canada Revenue Agency's website has a list of all registered charities in Canada and helpful information about donating to charities.
There are other ways to give through estate planning using assets such as an existing or new life insurance policy, or proceeds from your registered retirement savings plan, registered retirement income fund or tax free savings account. These gifts involve designating the charity as a beneficiary of the policy or plan and can result in significant tax benefits to you.
How we can help
Here at the Victoria Foundation, we are happy to help you explore options for supporting the community. Whether you wish to provide for a permanent fund, a term fund, or an outright gift to your chosen charities, we will work with you to ensure your wishes are honoured – for today and for the future.
The BC Branch of the Canadian Bar Association is offering these free public programs to help you get started: