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Wills and Your Children

How Do I List My Children on my Will?

When leaving gifts to your children in your Will, the full legal name of each child should be included. Sometimes, parents don’t want to leave anything to one of their children. In this case, it is best practice to specifically state in the will that you are disinheriting this child and wish to exclude him or her as a beneficiary.  If the disinherited child is simply left out of the Will without reference, it is possible that a court could rule that you did so by accident and re-interpret the Will to include the child you intended to disinherit. It’s recommended that any children who are not included as beneficiaries in a Will are communicated with in advance in order to avoid feuds between him or her and the other beneficiaries, which often ends in extra legal costs and strained relationships between family members. 

How Do I Address Step-Children?

Unless you have officially adopted your step-children, they are not considered your legal children according to Ontario law. As such, if you leave gifts to “all my children”, your step-children will be excluded from those gifts. To avoid any issues, if you would like a stepchild to be one of your beneficiaries, make sure to specifically name your step-child as a beneficiary in your Will using his or her full name.

Guardians

A guardian or guardians are individual(s) who you appoint in your Will to look after and be legally responsible for your children while they are minors, if both parents of your children pass away or are not in the picture.   It is a good idea to give serious consideration to who you would like to appoint as the guardian(s) of your children as there are several important considerations:  

Things to Consider When Appointing A Guardian:

  1. Your guardian can be anyone you want; the only requirement is that they must have reached the age of majority (at least 18 years of age).
  2. Should you choose one or two guardians? Many people automatically choose a couple to be the guardians of their children, however, there are good reasons to opt for one person as well. Consider this, divorce is a reality that affects roughly half of all marriages, so you may want to appoint one person to avoid the uncertainty that a marriage breakdown could have on the guardianship of your children. 
  3. Does the person you’re considering have experience raising children? Do they share your parenting style and educational views?
  4. Is the person or persons in the financial, physical, and emotional state to be caring for your children?
  5. If you want your children to be raised in a specific religion or faith, does the guardian share that faith?
  6. Where do they live? Is your child willing to relocate?

Make sure your proposed guardian consents to becoming the guardian of your children. Likewise, consider leaving them a sufficient amount of resources and compensation to assist them in raising your children – kids are expensive, and you don’t want to financially burden a guardian. 

Naming A Trustee

Often times, the person you appoint as guardian also serves as the trustee for the assets you have left your children. A trustee is a person who manages a trust on behalf of a beneficiary and is appointed by the testator (the person making the will). Let’s say you want to leave a large sum of money to your daughter. If she is, for example, 15 years old when you pass away, you may not want her to have full control of the money immediately because she may not have the knowledge and maturity required to wisely handle that sum of money. Instead, you can appoint a trustee to hold on to that money until she is old enough to make financially sound decisions.  Most testators appoint a trustee for minors until an age they feel the child would be able to make responsible decisions regarding the assets he or she has inherited. Common ages we have seen for beneficiaries to gain full control of their inheritance is 18, 21 and 25 years old; however, this decision should be made on a case by case basis, depending on circumstances such as the personality and maturity of the child and the sum and form of the inheritance.

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