Anticipate Who Might Contest Your Will
Think of who might challenge the content of your will. It would be primarily people who feel that you should have included them but didn’t, or did include them but did not give them much, or you had restrictions on the access to or timing of receipt, or nature of the bequest. This could include children from an earlier relationship whether common law or marriage, children with special needs, relatives or current spouse. In some provinces, parents and grandparents also have rights.
Get Expert Legal Advice in Advance
You want to speak to a lawyer who specializes in will and estate law. They have the expertise and experience to protect your interests. For example, they could insert special clauses explaining the rationale why certain beneficiaries were excluded, or included but with restrictions or reduced bequests. This field of law is a highly specialized area.
Minimize Amount in Your Estate
If you feel your will could be contested by someone, there are various options to consider as outlined below to bypass the estate, and therefore deplete the value of your estate covered by your will. Any lawyer, acting on behalf of someone planning to contest your will, could advise the client to forget about it, if research showed there was nothing left in the estate of consequence. Many of these options have been covered in more detail in other parts of the book. Keep in mind that under provincial legislation, only what is in the estate is at risk. If you have very little in your estate, then of course you don’t have much at risk.
One way of minimizing your estate assets is by applying different strategies based on professional advice. For example:
- Dedicated beneficiaries of RRSPs, RRIFs, other registered and non-registered investments, and life insurance
- Joint ownership of bank accounts and property. In most cases, on your death, the asset is automatically owned by the other joint owner
- Gifting to others while you are still alive
- Setting up Living or Inter vivos Trusts
- Setting up Testamentary Trusts