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Tax Season – A Good Time to Look Over Your Will

Tax Season – A Good Time to Look Over Your Will

By:

Posted April 18, 2024

Clients frequently ask how often they should update their Wills. We generally suggest that when clients sit down to do the oh so fun task of filing their taxes and gathering their relevant paperwork, that they take a few minutes to review their Will as well. During this review, it is important to consider any significant changes in your life that might require you to update your Will.

Relevant changes might include the following:

  • There has been a major event in your life, such as, a marriage, the start of a common-law relationship, you welcomed a child, you are separating or divorcing, someone in your life has passed away, or you are experiencing a serious health issue.
  • There has been a significant change in your financial situation, such as, you have become unemployed, you have acquired an asset, you have taken on debt, you have a higher income. If you are unsure as to whether a change in your financial situation will have a significant impact on your estate, you may want to speak with an accountant or a wills and estates lawyer.
  • Someone directly named in your Will as an Estate Trustee or Beneficiary has died or the relationship with them has changed.

Some of these situations will likely require an update to your Will, whereas others may not. It all depends on how your Will was drafted and what your desired outcomes are.

It is important to note that merely marking up your Will, for example, by crossing out the name of someone, does not create a binding amendment to your Will. Doing this may in fact expose your estate to additional risk of dispute or litigation, as your testamentary wishes may be unclear.

If the amendment is small and does not disrupt the effectiveness of the Will as a whole, you may wish to create a Codicil that attaches to the Will. The Codicil will refer to the Will and set out any modifications.

If the change is more significant, it may be necessary to draft a new Will, the effect of which will invalidate all prior Wills before it.

A Will is a living document that you can and should amend or replace as your life situation and estate goals change. If you have questions or are unsure of how to best achieve your testamentary goals, you should speak with a wills and estates lawyer.

This blog post was written by Heather Austin-Skaret, a Partner in the Real EstateWills and Estates, and Estate Litigation teams, and Articling Student Meghan Boyer. Heather can be reached at 613-369-0356 or at Heather.Austin-Skaret@mannlawyers.com.

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Heather Austin-Skaret

Heather Austin-Skaret

My practice includes estate planning and administration as well as commercial and residential real estate work. I value my long standing relationships with some of Ottawa’s leading real estate agents and mortgage brokers. I enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience with others and enjoy giving presentations and seminars. Over the years, I have developed extensive experience in the area of estate planning and administration, which allows me to assist clients at some of their most difficult times.  I am constantly updating my knowledge as a member of S.T.E.P. and the Ottawa Estate Planning Council. As a true Maritimer, born in Springhill, Nova Scotia, I, of course, headed west. I started my university career at the University of Saskatchewan and then started inching my way back east, stopping to attend and complete my undergraduate at the University of Manitoba in 1990 with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours). I then moved to... Read More

Read More About Heather Austin-Skaret
Meghan Boyer

Meghan Boyer

I am an articling student, returning after working at the firm during summer 2023 as a law student. I graduated from the Faculty of Law at McGill University in Spring 2023 with a Juris Doctor and a Bachelor of Civil Law. I spent much of my time in law school volunteering with the Legal Information Clinic at McGill providing legal information and referrals to community members. I also worked as a student advocate, assisting students with disputes at the university and informing them of their rights. In my final year, I clerked at the Administrative Tribunal of Quebec in the Social Affairs Division. I graduated from Carleton University in 2019 with an Honours Bachelor in Global and International Studies. I also had the wonderful experience of working as a page through the House of Commons Page Program. Outside of my articling, I enjoy watching, and occasionally performing in, theater. I... Read More

Read More About Meghan Boyer

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