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A will can protect your children’s financial future
Very few Canadians have a will, and fewer have a currently updated will. Without a will, you cannot outline directives regarding your most “priceless asset” – your children. A will allows you to clarify your selection of a legal guardian for your children. Here are some steps to take to prepare for the transfer of parental responsibility when planning your will with your lawyer.
Choose an individual. Perhaps your parents, a brother, a sister or a friend could assume the appropriate parental role in your absence. Consider their living quarters, age, health, ethics, financial means and current family stress load. More importantly, talk to them and get their approval first. Do not simply assume that your parents or siblings will take care of the children.
• Select a contingent guardian in case the first choice refuses the guardianship, takes ill or passes away.
• Ensure that the guardian will have sufficient capital to provide for the children, which may include the need for life insurance. Know your current financial net worth and how much income it can generate for your children.
The guardian clause is only an interim appointment. In your Will you can insert a provision that you are appointing someone as your child’s guardian – which most lawyers do. It is important to remember that any such appointment is only good for 90 days, because it is an interim appointment only. It therefore allows all interested people to appear before the court, and the court will make the final decision about who will be the guardian. Why include the guardianship clause if it is only an interim appointment? You should include it, because the guardianship clause provides strong evidence of the parents’ choice of guardian, although it is not determinative.
Include the following parameters in your will:
• Choose a trustee to invest and manage any money that your children may inherit.
• Express your financial directives regarding the maintenance and education of your children and the age when they may personally receive the balance of the inheritance.
• Update your directives when your circumstances change, reflecting for example, changes in your net worth; a new child in the family; a deceased beneficiary or desired guardian; or special wishes regarding the transfer of certain assets to specific children.
• Choose a competent, informed, and trustworthy executor with the patience to follow time-consuming legal detail.
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