The province’s disturbing COVID-19 death toll of more than 10,000 could leave many Quebecers pondering their own mortality.
How many still don’t have a will?
For those left behind, an updated will detailing the deceased’s final wishes and spelling out who gets what eliminates a lot of red tape, potential aggravation and family discord.
It’s also the only way of ensuring your estate is apportioned according to your specifications and in a timely fashion.
Because if you die without a will, it’s out of your hands.
The course of action will be dictated by Quebec’s Civil Code , which has its own formula for distributing the assets of the deceased. Beneficiaries could include relatives you may not be on good terms with anymore.
A useful chart on the information website Educaloi maps out the convoluted succession chain if there is no will.
If a married person dies without a will and has children, his or her spouse is entitled to one-third of the succession, while the children get two-thirds. If one of the children has predeceased, that child’s offspring are entitled to his or her share.
If the deceased wasn’t married, his or her children get everything. If there are no children, parents and siblings split the succession.
Common-law spouses are especially vulnerable in situations where there is no will because common-law couples are generally not protected in ways that married couples are, even if they have children together.
Unless it’s specified in a will, a common-law spouse is not necessarily entitled to any of a partner’s assets after death.
“A common-law spouse is not considered an heir if there is no will,” Educaloi notes. “A common-law spouse can only inherit if named in a will.”
Life insurance is another important consideration that often gets filed away and forgotten.
If they are not updated, policies that were signed several years and life-changing events ago could provide some unexpected surprises at death. Financial advisers say it happens all the time.
You may remember the beneficiaries on life-insurance policies in your drawer at home, but what about the group policy you signed at your workplace when you started years ago, before you were married?
What if the beneficiary on a policy is someone no longer in your life?
What if you named your first two children on a life-insurance policy taken out years ago, but now you have four?
Are you aware of the potential complications that go with naming minor children as life-insurance beneficiaries?
And what happens to life-insurance coverage after a marital split?
In Quebec, a divorce automatically revokes the beneficiary designation of a spouse on a life-insurance policy signed before the separation and during the marriage (although it can be reinstated if the parties agree to it as part of a divorce agreement).
But a common-law partner beneficiary designation of a life-insurance policy is not automatically revoked at separation. You will need to be proactive and change your beneficiary designation following separation.
Yes, estate planning is sobering and complicated, and updating the paperwork can be tedious, but for the sake of your heirs, it’s worth it.
The Montreal Gazette invites reader questions on tax, investment and personal finance matters. If you have a query you’d like addressed, please send it by email to Paul Delean at email@example.com.