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Canadians Can't Take It With Them

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 26 September 2000 00:00

Not enough Canadians ask themselves, "After a lifetime of accumulating home equity, what will happen to it?"

Will you dispose of your home and home equity while you are alive to share the results or will you bequeath your assets through a will after your death?

"You often hear people say they believe that if they die without a will, the government will get everything," said Alaura Ross, Director of Estate Administration for the Public Trustee of British Columbia, which searches for heirs of those who die without a will. "You'd think that if they believe this they would get a will, but many people die without one."

Through a will, you can leave your real estate and other possessions to whomever you wish for reasons that are important only to you. If you die intestate, that is without a will, the law dictates who will inherit your assets. While the legal inheritance priority follows what most people would see as a natural order—from close family to distant relatives—your property may be inherited by someone you would never have considered.

Monique Charlebois, Legal Counsel at the Ontario Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee which deals with estates averaging about $50,000, said, "Lately, we have had more [estates] with six figures and sophisticated assets but no will."

If heirs cannot be found, the assets are sold and the money held by the government. Unclaimed funds are eventually added to government revenue. At any time, if a bone fide heir comes forward, the funds would be turned over to them.

Ms. Ross explains:"You have to be part Sherlock Holmes, part administrator. Anything that can happen to a person in their life must be wound up. It is like walking into the middle of a movie [with] the task of figuring out all that went on and winding it up. In 95% of the estates under our administration, we can find [the heirs]."

For most Canadians, their home is their largest asset. In the past, the family home passed from one generation to the next. Today, most children do not want to move back into their childhood home, but many will fight to get the family cottage.

What would happen to your home, cottage and other assets if you were hit by a bus today?

Not a pleasant thought, but would you rather have your loved ones fighting for what they think is their due or, worse, the government stepping in to sort out your affairs?

Call your lawyer or get a will kit, but get your wants and wishes down on paper today!

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