When people consider financial advice, their minds often go immediately to mortgages, investments and lines of credit. But what happens to all those assets and liabilities when an Ontario individual passes away? Keeping an updated will is one of the most often forgotten pieces of financial advice, yet doing so can prevent serious turmoil and even estate litigation within a family.
Keeping an updated will requires much more than drafting the original legal document. It means updating that document regularly and keeping a clear, detailed list of assets. This includes not only major assets like real estate and investment accounts, but also less often remembered items like family heirlooms, digital passwords and pets. All of these can lead to estate litigation if not explicitly dealt with in an estate plan.
Digital assets are electronic records left behind by a user. This not only includes items with clear monetary value, such as online accounts accumulating travel points, but also things like owned websites and email accounts. If these items play a role in a business of any kind, they are even more important to consider. Simply including passwords in an estate plan can save a great deal of turmoil and conflict in executing a will.
It is easy to forget something when drafting a will, so communication and checks and balances are key. Discuss plans with family and clarify what items are important to them. Make sure an executor knows where to find everything, and regularly discuss plans with an Ontario lawyer to ensure everything is properly recorded. Those who do end up in estate litigation due to incomplete plans should also discuss the issue with a lawyer as soon as possible to find a resolution and understand their options.