There is no reason not to have a Will.

There are many reasons why people don’t get their Will done and I think the biggest one is procrastination. We keep putting it off to another day. No more excuses. By the time you finish reading this article and do some basic homework with a piece of paper beside you, you can have a valid Will.

In Manitoba, a holograph Will is valid. It’s a Will that is completely in your own handwriting (no hand printing allowed). You do not need witnesses. Please write legibly so others can read it.

Before we begin, I want to state that there are many situations that a handwritten Will should not be used and you really should see a lawyer. Some of the reasons include a complex estate, a second marriage, many assets, many beneficiaries, and more.

But if you truly think you have a basic estate, maybe a handwritten Will is sufficient.

I’m being a bit selfish for wanting you to have a Will now. It’s really just so I can complete all your taxes and deal with your legal representative (your executor). Yes, it part of those two certainties in life: Death and Taxes.

If you do not have a Will, you have no legal representative to look after anything, even just filing your tax returns. So that’s why I need you to have a Will. I would hate for a family member or friend to have to apply for Letters of Administration (the courts appoint a legal representative) just to get your taxes done.

For many people, their estates will be simple. One or two bank accounts, with amounts under $30,000; and the account may be joint with their spouse. If you are widowed, maybe you just want to leave your estate to all your children. Fine. That’s what I call a simple estate. Get out your pen and paper. The first sentence will be: This is the last Will and Testament of me, YOUR FULL NAME, of (write out your town or community you live in), Manitoba, dated (write today’s date).

The next paragraph will say who your legal representative is: I appoint my husband/wife, HIS/HER FULL NAME, to be my executor and trustee of my Will. If he/she should predecease me, or is unable or unwilling to act as my executor, I appoint my son/daughter, HIS/HER FULL NAME, to be my alternate executor and trustee of my Will. If my son/daughter HIS/HER NAME is unwilling or unable to act as executor I appoint my daughter/son, HER/HIS NAME.

Now who should be your executor? Often it is your spouse and the alternate is one of your children. I say one of because it’s really not necessary to have more than one. It’s easier for the estate to be looked after if it just one executor rather than multiple people. It’s best if they live nearby or at least live in Manitoba. If you do not have a spouse, name one of your children as executor and another one as the alternate.

If you really don’t know who your executor should be, call me and we can go over some of your options and I can make some recommendations to you. Ok, now how do you want your assets distributed?

I designate as my sole beneficiary, my husband/wife, HIS/HER NAME. Should my husband/wife predecease me, I designate all my biological children to be my beneficiaries, equally: NAME ALL OF THEM.

If any of my children should predecease me, their share shall be paid to their issue.

If any of my beneficiaries are minors, I instruct my executor to pay their proceeds at age 18.

Sign your name. Sign as you would your cheque or any other legal document. It is suppose to be your signature, not just writing out your name.

There. You now have a legal Will.

If you think that is too basic and you want more directions in your Will, then you do need to get it done through a lawyer. Not sure? Call or drop by to see me. I help people decide what should be in their Will and give them all the “what ifs” and the pros and cons, and then I send you to a lawyer to create a proper Will.

Now that you have your legal Will, what should you do with it? I suggest making copies to give to your executor(s) and to your beneficiaries so everyone knows it exists and what it says (no surprises). Let your executor(s) know where you are keeping the original. It should be in a safe (fire proof) place in your home. For many years, my parents kept theirs in their freezer in a zip lock bag (last place to burn). But as executor, I knew where it was and had a photocopy. If you have a fire proof box at home, that would be a good location.

If you want to make me a copy too, that would be good, then I know who your legal representative is when it comes to completing your last tax return(s).

Anni Markmann is a tax professional working, living, and volunteering in our community. Contact Anni at 204-422-6631 or or 36 Dawson Road in Ste Anne.