Who Cares for Kids When You Die Without a Will

You planned to make a will last year. Oh well, you’ll do it next month. Hopefully you’ll get to it in time, before life happens.

No Will Creates Legal Limbo

Most parents want to be there for their kids. Dying “intestate” (without a personal will) plunges your family into crisis and leaves your kids in legal limbo, maybe for months.

No Time to React

Accidents happen so quickly. A whiteout and blowing snow at Bowmanville Jan. 7, 2017 caused over 100 vehicle collisions on the 401, but only minor injuries. It was hardly the worst day on the GTA’s most traveled highway. Unlike Sept. 3, 1999, when Windsor-Essex was the scene of an 87-vehicle pileup during morning rush hour. 

The Day the Fog Rolled In

The jack-knifing started when a tractor trailer hesitated in a sudden dense fog that rolled in from Detroit. With less than a metre visibility, vehicles on both sides of the grassy median took a header. A fireball from a fuel tanker fused several vehicles together, an OPP officer who dodged shrapnel from the explosions recalled. The flames consumed 14 cars and five semis. 

Highway 401 Called Carnage Alley

The kilometre-long path of destruction killed eight and injured 45. The site was just 16 kilometres from “Carnage Alley”, between Windsor and London, where 13 died the previous year. Sixty were injured on the Windsor stretch of the 401 in the six months before Sept. 3. Post-accident investigations led to 25 recommendations from a provincial coroner — and years of upgrades.  

Fire, Accident or Pandemic Seem Unimaginable

No one thinks they will die unexpectedly or that their minor children will be left alone. Unfortunately, a serious accident, fire or domestic dispute can rob your children of your love and guidance just when they need it most. COVID-19 has devastated families in a way that seems almost unreal.

Crisis Proofing Your Family

You bought joint life insurance, ensured the mortgage would be paid if you died and named beneficiaries for your investments. Making a personal will and appointing guardians for your children is just logical. Yet many couples delay writing a will because of the cost or time involved. 

Small Cost for Your Children’s Security

When you think about how much you pay in interest for your mortgage or to buy a car, your final will and testament is a small investment. Axess Law charges just $199.99 and up to draft a personal will. Here’s the best part: if you plan well ahead, your kids will be secure knowing you took good care of them.

What Happens When You Don’t Plan Ahead

Think of it this way. Although you hope and imagine your parents or siblings would immediately step in to care for your children in a crisis, your trust may be misplaced. While they may be there to support your kids through the immediate aftermath, legally the Province of Ontario is responsible for your children’s care. 

Would You Want Strangers to Care For Your Children?

If both you and your spouse die without a will or appointing guardians, weeks or months could go by before an Ontario court decides who is best suited to care for your children. Your kids could be put in foster care through the local Children Aid’s Society while the court screens possible guardians.

Writing a Guardianship Clause

A guardianship clause in your personal will appoints family members or trusted friends to care for your kids after your death. Unless your guardians’ appointments are contested, your final wishes will usually be respected by the court. The clause can be added to an existing will or included when you write a new will. 

Who Will Manage Your Money?

Ontario law also requires you to make financial plans to support minor children after your death. Creating a trust and appointing trustees to manage your money is the easiest way to ensure your children’s needs are met. Interest from investments in the trust can be used to fund food, clothing, shelter, school and extracurricular expenses. Anything left over can be distributed to your kids after they reach adulthood.

Picking Guardians and Trustees

While your children’s guardians can also manage their trust, splitting up these responsibilities acts as a second set of eyes on their care. Not everyone wants the responsibility of raising someone else’s children or managing their money. Give serious thought to appointing alternates, just in case your first choice is unavailable or unwilling after all. Choosing someone who shares your moral values and religious beliefs and is kind to your children could give you lasting peace of mind.

An Inheritance to Last

Schools, friends and hobbies are a big part of children’s lives. Think carefully about how you can arrange your kids’ care to be least disruptive for them. A relative who lives several provinces away may be the obvious choice, but is moving that far away really what’s best for them? You want your children to thrive and be successful after you’re gone. Planning wisely for a day when you may not be around is the best inheritance you can give them.

Legal Advice on Amending Your Personal Will

Axess Law Ontario wills and estate lawyers advise you on including guardians and trustees in your will. Video conference with a licensed Ontario lawyer 7 days a week, day or evening, at your convenience. Call toll-free to 1-877-522-9377 or in Greater Toronto at 647-479-0118 or use our online booking form to make an appointment. In person meetings are available at our Ottawa, Toronto, Scarborough, Vaughan, Etobicoke, Mississauga Winston Churchill or Mississauga Heartland law offices.

Click here to learn more about Axess Law’s wills and estates services.