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Legal 411 by Alona C. MercadoDo you have a will?

By Alona C. Mercado

As a lawyer who practices in the area of wills and estate law, I think it’s very important that every adult should have a last will and testament. I have been told by a lot of people that they don’t need a will because they don’t have a lot of money or that they are married so their spouse will get everything anyway. On the other hand, I also have clients who come to me to make their wills because they don’t want the government to get their money.

There seems to be a lot of misconceptions about what happens if you have a will or if you don’t have a will. The first misconception is that only “rich people” should have wills. Everyone has assets – you may just not realize it. Your iPad is an asset. Your book collection is an asset. Your wedding and engagement ring are assets. Your Jets season tickets are your assets. These are all examples of assets outside of the traditional money in your bank account, your car and your house. By making a will, you will determine who will become the beneficiaries of these assets. But most important, by making a will, you will determine who will become your executor – the person who will make all the legal decisions regarding your estate.

Another common misconception is that the government will swoop in and take all your money and assets after you pass away if you have no will. This is wrong. There are laws in place that will determine who gets your assets. Normally, the spouse and/or children would become the beneficiaries. However, if there are children born from a previous relationship or outside of the marriage, these facts will impact on who becomes a beneficiary and for how much of the estate. Also, if the individuals you consider your children are your stepchildren or there are adopted children involved, there are laws pertaining to their rights to your estate as well.

There are as many different scenarios as there are people and the law may impact each of these people differently. The bottom line is that if you don’t make will, you are leaving the decisions about who becomes your beneficiaries and who will make the legal decisions for you up to the government. The only way you can take control over your own assets is to make a will.

If you would like to learn more about making wills, I recommend that you attend a Will Week seminar. I have been taking part in Will Week since its inception in 2006. Will Week is a community initiative hosted by The Winnipeg Foundation, in partnership with the Manitoba Bar Association and Office of the Public Trustee. During the last week of April every year, Manitoba lawyers present free information seminars as a public service throughout the province.

Each seminar will cover the importance of having a valid Will, enduring Power of Attorney and a Health Care Directive. There are a number of seminars that will take place throughout the City of Winnipeg. The seminars are free on a first come, first served basis and seating is limited in each seminar. All interested individuals should register in advance at 204-948-3394. However, if you should discover at the last minute that you have time to attend but have not yet registered, you will still be welcome, so long as there is space available.

I urge you all to attend one of the seminars.

The content of this article is not intended as legal advice and is for information purposes only. Should you require legal advice on a specific issue relating to the content of this article, please seek the services of a legal professional.

Alona C. Mercado is a lawyer practicing in Winnipeg with the law firm of MONK GOODWIN LLP. She was called to the Manitoba Bar in 1999. Her preferred areas of practice include wills and estates, committees, real estate and immigration law. Alona can be reached at (204) 956-1060 ext. 233 or amercado@monkgoodwin.com.

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