What is a Will?
The word “Will” is very interesting. It is used in a multitude of different ways in the English language. It is far more than just the future tense of the verb “to be”.
There is definitely a connection between the word “will”, as in “Last Will and Testament”, and what “will” happen in the future. Even when you are not talking about the document called a “will”, your “will” is a reflection of your convictions. This is why the person with the most “will power” will generally achieve their goals. It can even be used as a verb. When you say, “I will this to be so”, you are saying something so much stronger than “I want this to be so”.
It is archaic, but think of a king of old saying to his knights “You will do what I will you to do.” The appropriate response, of course, was “Your will is my command!”
My point is that the word “will”, just by itself, evokes a feeling of power and control. And this is precisely what the document we call a “will” does. It gives you power and control over what is to happen to the material manifestation of your life once you die. In other words, it enables you to dictate what is to happen to the “stuff” you have accumulated over the course of your lifetime. Without a will, the law dictates what will happen.
It is amazing to me that so many people living in Canada do not have a will. Some statistics say that more than 50% of the population over the age of 18 do not have wills. This means that more than half the people living in Canada do not have an estate plan.
A will is the most important document in an estate plan. If you do nothing but get a will, you have at least the most basic estate plan in place. Unfortunately, the will has no effect unless and until you die. I say this because so many people that I consult with are under the false impression that whoever is named as executor in the will automatically has authority to take care of things while the person is alive but unable to do it themselves. In other words, a lot of people believe that if they get sick, or get Alzheimer’s, or have a stroke, etc., the person named as executor in the will automatically can take care of that person’s business, banking, properties, investments and health care decisions. That is simply not true.
A will gives absolutely no authority to anyone to do anything unless and until you die. Until then, the will is simply a tool, subject to change at any time, enabling you to impose your wishes and intentions on those that survive you. Most of us want to ensure that there is a way to distribute our assets to those we want to see get them, as well as a way to take care of the people that love and depend on us. This is what a will does. As they say, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”