Which Assets Will be Covered by My Will and the Importance of Knowing.

It has come to our attention that quite a few Albertans are misinformed about which assets their Will will actually cover. The general rule is that everything you own will be covered by your will except for assets that you own as joint tenants with another person (such as your home if you and your spouse are joint tenants on title or joint bank accounts) or assets with a designated beneficiary such as RRSPs or life insurance unless you have named your estate as the beneficiary.

There are subtle nuances to this though. The first being that technically your will can override an existing beneficiary designation. The most recently dated document will be the one that governs so you can bring assets back into the scope of your will by making a new beneficiary designation in the prescribed form.  However, the due diligence of the institution holding the asset (such as the life insurance company or bank where the RRSP is held) ends with what they have on record so they will pay out the proceeds to the name on record and it is up to the more recently named beneficiary to bring an action to get the asset back.

The second nuance is that not all property that is owned by more than one person is owned as joint tenants.  Many pieces of property are held as tenants in common, which means that each owner owns a specified portion of the property and that specified portion will form parr of their estate.  It is especially important for you to know how your property is held if there is more than one name on title so that you know if it is covered by your will or not.

In my past practise as a lawyer, I often ran into the instance where business associates had their names on title as joint tenants.  Because of the right of survivorship in joint tenants, if one person passed away, the other would automatically receive the entire property which was often not the intention as they would prefer their families receive the property, not the business associate.  It is very important to know how your property is held.

Which Assets Will be Covered by My Will and the Importance of Knowing.

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