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    Thinking about retirement? Have you thought about leaving a will?
    Posted: 2012-06-14 05:32:34

    Though the subject can be sensitive for some people, sooner or later you may face the need to think about what you'll do for your family and next of kin after you've passed away, especially if you have accumulated high-value assets. Writing a will is not mandatory. Nobody can force you to make a decision about how to distribute your property after you pass away. However, without a will, the law will determine how to do it, and it does not always do so according to the wishes of the person leaving the property. With a will, you can clearly say who gets what and when, and who gets to distribute all your property.

    In addition, with a will, one can carefully create tax advantages for those who are going to receive the property. The American and Canadian Income Tax laws have many provisions that regulate the tax consequences of passing property among family members and non-related people. This is an area in which an accountant or a lawyer can be particularly helpful.

    Writing a will does not require a lawyer. However, a lawyer can be helpful in providing advice about distribution property, especially high-value property. There can be many issues and details that a lawyer can recognize when drafting a will to ensure it has very clear instructions and that it avoids family disputes.

    What does a will contain?

    A will typically contains several sections:

    1. Names and details of the person leaving the will;

    2. Appointment of an executor who will administer the will and carry out its instructions;

    3. Names of the parties who will receive the property under the will;

    4. Instructions about how to distribute any remaining property after it has been allocated to the beneficiaries; and

    5. Other instructions. For example, a will may designate a person to act as guardian for your minor children, or it may say that a previously drafted should be cancelled.

    6. Signatures. You must sign the will in front of two witnesses (as required in most Canadian provinces and American states. In Ontario and many Canadian provinces, the will’s beneficiaries are disqualified from acting as witnesses. There is a similar rule in many American states that requires that the witnesses be non-beneficiaries). The witnesses have to sign the will in front of you as well.

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