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How to protect your home through estate planning

Jesse Abrams - May 1, 2019, 1:45 pm

A special guest post from your friends at Willful 

Congratulations! You’ve purchased your dream home, and you’re excited about building your future.  

After going through the sometimes lengthy and complicated process of home buying, it's now time to think about the importance of protecting your home as you get older and life changes take place.  

We go to great lengths to protect our home from destruction such as fires, floods or environmental damage outside of our control with home insurance. Many Canadians are unaware that you can add another layer of home protection and security through your legal Will, so the joy you experience from your property will be passed on to loved ones when you’re no longer living.

Did you know that over 50% of Canadians do not have a legally signed Will? In a recent AngusReid survey commissioned by Willful in British Columbia, findings show that 58% of respondents did not have a will and 90% of millennials said they did not have a will. This could mean their assets such as finances and properties may not be distributed the way they would have wished.

     

Estate planning can help you

   

  • Decide how you want your assets like your home to be distributed when you’re gone
  • Decide who and how you want your home and related financial decisions to be managed and maintained if you’re medically unable to do so

Here’s why creating a Will and estate planning is an important part of protecting your home and securing your loved ones futures.

Why it’s important you create a Last Will and Testament

If you were to pass away, what would happen to the beautiful home and its contents that you’ve worked so hard to acquire? There is no need to worry because there are steps you can take to care for your assets—that’s what a Will is for!

A Will is a legal document that outlines how you wish to distribute your assets such as your home, money, belongings while also appointing an executor and guardians if you have minor children or dependants to care for. Without one, your property will be divided according to the laws of the province or territory you live in which may not be how you would have wished. 

A Will exists to provide you, the homeowner, peace of mind that your assets will be distributed among your loved ones, in the way you intended when you’re no longer living. Maybe you want to leave your home to your children, or a close sibling such as your sister.  Whichever way you decide you want to distribute your property, it’s essential to understand the basics of your Last Will and Testament so you can make the right choices for you.

It’s an important step for any adult—not just homeowners. However, having valuable assets such as a home or multiple properties is a driving factor in creating a Will sooner than later. Other monumental life moments that should drive one to create a Will, include; getting married, having children, having a common-law partner or owning a business.

Creating a Will doesn’t have to be complicated or stressful. An online legal will platform like Willful is an easy and affordable way to set up a Will and Power of Attorney documents in under 20 minutes in a completely guided experience with template documents made with the help of experienced estate lawyers.

      

Choosing an Executor you Trust

   

Choosing an executor is a challenging, yet necessary decision you must make when preparing your Will. Ideally a spouse, relative or close friend, an Executor is a person who will help carry out the wishes outlined in your will and make important decisions on your behalf.

Assigning an Executor (instead of waiting for the courts to do so) helps provide access to the necessary accounts and property to settle your estate. They can distribute funds to your beneficiaries and can act on behalf of your property, business, and financial interests.

In terms of your real estate, the Executor will be responsible in ensuring any property you own is distributed according to your wishes. Below are different options many people choose to outline in their Will when it comes to their home:

  • Leave the home to one of the beneficiaries as their inheritance, either outright or in a trust
  • Sell the house and divide the net proceeds among the beneficiaries
  • Another option, although a rare one, is that the estate is liquidated, possibly to prevent any of the beneficiaries from owning any particular property
  • Or the Will might state that a certain beneficiary has a specific amount of time to come forward with an offer to purchase the property. During that period, nobody else can buy it.

One thing to remember is that your beneficiaries can’t receive anything from the estate until the deceased's debts have been paid so it's possible that the house might be needed for settling debts.

Being an executor can be a stressful role, especially under the circumstances. They must be an organized person and of sound mind. Someone able to make critical decisions during a potentially difficult time. Remember to choose someone who feels comfortable and is available to take on the role.

Having an Executor in your corner will give you an added layer of security and ensure that your home and affairs are well-looked after you’re gone.

     

Choosing a Power of Attorney for Property

      

There may be a time in your life where you suffer an accident and you are medically no longer able to make personal decisions or manage important responsibilities. In situations like this, you will need a trusted person close to you to take on that role.

A Power of Attorney, or POA for short, is a legal document that gives someone you trust the authority to make decisions on your behalf in the legal, financial, personal, and medical spheres of their lives. People often appoint their spouse, relative, or close friend with good judgment to be their Attorney.

You might be thinking what the difference between a POA and an Executor is? Well, we like to think of your POA as a form of disability insurance (it takes care of you while you’re alive) and your Will as a form of life insurance (it takes care of your loved ones after you pass away).

Specifically, a Power of Attorney for Property is a person that will make decisions about your property and finances, such as paying your bills such as your mortgage and utilities, managing your investments and collecting any money owed to you, if you are medically unable to do so yourself.

The POA for Property will have the ability to take possession of your property, using it to benefit you or your close family. They may also sell, rent, renovate, or otherwise manage your property, as they believe you would do if you were capable. You’ll want to choose someone with your best interests at heart.

Making these critical decisions now provides certainty that your affairs will be taken care of in the event you are temporarily unable to manage them.

     

Where do I start?

     

Many people become overwhelmed at the thought of drafting legal documents such as a Will. Is it expensive? Do I need a lawyer? Or what if I miss something? Are all common questions that cause people to procrastinate and put it off for another day— which can sometimes be too late.

We’re here to tell you that drafting a Will, is not as complicated as you think! An easy and affordable platform like Willful makes creating your Will and protecting your valued assets such as your home, stress-free and straightforward.

Willful takes you step-by-step through the Will drafting process while offering easy to understand explanations along the way.

Just signup and answer a few questions to see which plan is best for your needs. Once a plan is selected, you’ll be guided through various sections that have been built to create custom legal documents according to your wishes.

Willful saves your dashboard until you’re ready to pay and print. Each document comes with instructions to make sure your documents are properly witnessed and signed. And voila! You can rest easy knowing you’ve taken steps to secure the future of your estate and your loved ones.

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