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When and why should you make a will? Pam is talking to Smithers notary Kathryn Johnson about that today on CICK News.


[Transcript below]


 my name's Kathryn Johnson. I am a notary here in Smithers, British Columbia, originally from Vancouver and moved up here in 2007.  Why is having a will important? Oh, geez. Well, I think the best answer for that is that. So you can decide what happens to your stuff 

you get to decide who your executor is, manages your will. You get to decide who gets your stuff and you get to decide. Who is gonna take care of your minor children? Mm-hmm. Should you die before they're adults? If you don't have a will in BC then it just goes according to the statute, which has a hierarchy of who's entitled to your staff, and if you die without a will, anybody can apply to be your executor.

Really anybody can apply to be the guardian of your children. So you really do leave it up to fate or the statute to dictate. And so when it comes to like your assets, the hierarchy goes, um, if you die and you have a spouse, then your spouse gets it. If you don't have a spouse, then your children, if you don't have children, then your parents, and then if you don't have parents, then it's your sibling.

Yes. Okay. If you don't want those people to have your stuff, then you need to have a will. Or you don't want your. X to apply to be your executor or your administrator, then you need to have a will to appoint somebody. That's, that's what it really, in my opinion, comes down to as to why it's so important.

And so what do you have to have in order then? Um, and kind of, I guess, what are sort of those steps before making a will so that you're. Prepared when you do meet with a notary that you have everything that they would ask you for. Yeah,  we always send out, um, a, an instruction sheet to give you some time to think about it.

But you know, the primary, uh, Question is, who's gonna manage your estate when you die? Who's gonna deal with all this? Who's gonna deal with the funeral? Who's gonna pay out the estate? That's your executor. So who is gonna be your executor? And then what happens if that person can't? Mm-hmm. So you always have to have a backup.

What happens if that person's in the fiery crash with you? You know, who is gonna be the next person? Um, second is any specific gifts. So is there anything in particular that you don't want to fall to the estate? Um, to be distributed according to your wishes. Maybe, you know what, you want a gift. I had some girl gift her ugly green sofa to her friend.

You know, like she, you know, those specific gifts go before, so you wanna think about those. Sometimes it's family heirlooms or, you know, motorcycles. We've had all sorts of gifts. And then the next biggest thing is just your assets. So how do you. Your assets to be divided. Do you want it 50 50? 

Between your children? Do you usually in a, you know, a typical married relationship, you would say, you know, I give everything to my spouse, and then if my spouse and I both pass away, then everything equally to my children.  But what happens if one of those children is in the crash with you? Yeah. Then how do we, so it's, it's really kind of a process and a bunch of backups

that we try to account for and you're never gonna cover it. But you want to just try to cover as much as you can. Yeah. And then after assets would be minor children. Yeah. So who's gonna be the guardian of your minor children? Should yourself and the other natural parent die? Right. Because you cannot, the children.

We'll go to the other natural parent if they're surviving. You can't take away that parent's rights to their children. Yeah. Um, but you know, all things to consider.  And humans are such a web of tricky ifs, ands and butts anyway. Mm-hmm. Um, is there an average cost to a will? Mm-hmm. Yeah. We, we, so if I do my job correctly 

I will convince you to do the will, which takes effect when you. But also your power of attorney and your representation agreement. So really there's three documents. Mm-hmm. The will, like I said, takes effect when you pass away. But what happens if you're in an accident and you haven't died yet? Now who's gonna take care of your stuff while you're in the hospital?

Mm-hmm. Or, you know, whatever. Um, then the power of attorney appoints somebody to handle your legal and financial affairs, and the representation agreement appoints somebody to take care of your healthcare decisions while you're still alive. So then you have this package, you have these two documents that manage your estate or your stuff, I should say, yourself and your assets while you're.

And then if you pass away, those documents are garbage and your will kicks in. Okay. So then you're covered in life and in death. 

So typically, like in my office, and I think this is fairly standard with notaries now, everyone's gonna be a bit different if I do my job correctly and I have a couple. Who's gonna do two, two wills, two Power of attorneys, two representation agreements? It comes in at 1,068. 

Yeah, for each person. If it's just one, I think it comes in around 6 50, 700 roughly. Yep. Um, there are some registration fees for the wills registry and, and some, you know, stuff that we do afterwards, but that includes everything meeting with us.  Witnessing with your attorneys if they have to come in and sign, um, and of course, making sure you have a legal document Yeah.

Do you find that there are kind of like trends of events in people's lives that would propel them to want to have a will?

Absolutely. There when somebody close to them dies and doesn't have one. Yeah. When somebody is left to clean up the mess of somebody who didn't have a will. So, I mean that is, I certainly hope it propels them to get their ducks in a row.  

 How easy is it to change a will, you know, if your marital status changes or something like that? How, how easy is that? Or is that pretty cumbersome? It's super easy, so, oh, absolutely. So, well, let me qualify that. So if you can go to the person who did the will. That's the kicker.

So you have to go back to the person who drafted the original will. Oh. So if I, like for instance, my assistant, she, um, did her wills here. She just had a baby, but when she did the wills, the baby wasn't in the will. So now she wants to add her son and some guardians. Mm-hmm. Now, I don't have to do a new will for that.

I can do something called a codicil, which is basically just an amendment to the will. And it also, once it's executed by the clients, you register it and the will is registry. So the world knows that there's the will and a coda sell. And, and it just is just an amendment to it. It just goes along with it.

Yeah. However, if I get a phone call from somebody and they say, you know, bur and Overal did my will who are no longer in business.  And I wanna make a change. Unfortunately, I can't make a change to a will that I didn't draft because I become liable for the will. Okay. So it's very rare that you will find anybody that will make a change to a will that they didn't draft.

So easy. Yes. If the firm is still around. This might be kind of like a feely question, but like it feels like it's a lot of responsibility for you to have. Um, I mean, are you, like, what's your training for feeling prepared to see people at this time of life?

Because like you said, people are coming in when someone close to them has died, so usually it's not probably the best time of their life. Mm-hmm. But also too, just managing people through this. I mean, do you, do you manage, like do you do training like. Soft skills and emotional intelligence when dealing with all kinds of the public in this scenario.

Well, so I'll answer your first question just about the training. Yeah. And then we'll, we'll all I'll get to the, the soft skills.  So in order to become a notary in British Columbia, you have to have your undergraduate degree. Mm-hmm. So I did my undergrad in anthropology. I had my four year degree.

Unfortunately, there was nothing at the end of it, so I worked in town here for a while, and then we realized there was no notary in town. Oh, okay. Beautiful opportunity. What do I need to do? You need a master's degree? Well, in order to get the master's degree, you gotta have the undergrad. So I had the undergrad.

Yeah. So my useless undergrad came in handy. Okay. Doesn't matter if it's useless. Uh, and then I applied to sfu. You do your two year master's? Mm-hmm. Program. You write some. Uh, uh, statutory exams that are set by the province to make sure that you're ready to really do this. Yeah. And one of those statutory exams is a wills and estates exam.

So the master's program itself is property wills and estates and notarizations. Yeah, that's our focus. But I mean, I think about one recently, it was actually a friend. But, uh, you know, his wife passed away and they managed to come in to see me and get everything organized and, and her passing.

Was, I don't wanna say seamless, but it, it all was, you know, okay. Yeah. There was, everything was fine. Unnecessary headaches. No, no. Whereas, you know, the classic. Person that comes through my door. My spouse died and they didn't have a will and I wasn't on title of the property. Like  there's nothing I can do to help you at this point.

Yeah. I cannot help you. Yeah, it is too late.

 Um, so it's hard. Yeah. Like it's hard. You get some people, they know they're dying.

They're dying, they've just been diagnosed with cancer. Mm-hmm. They're coming to, to get their affairs in order. And every individual is different. So it's this, it is about managing my emotions.

Yeah. But really being sort of true to each individual client and just allowing them that space and time. Yeah, it's, it's hard.

Well, I know that's kind of a, that's kind of a heavy note to end on, but was there anything that I didn't ask that you think is important for people to know? Yeah, there is this. An underlying misconception that like, if I do a will, I'm gonna die. And that's not the case.  There's a thing out there. Oh, people. People have shared it with me.

Right. So there is an underlying sense of if I do this, will something's gonna happen. Like superstition. No, and it's absolutely like, Complete opposite. It's like if you care about the people you love, that you are gonna leave behind. You will do this. . If you care about them. Don't be selfish. It, it's actually selfish to go and not have your, your ducks in a row.

It's not hard. It's an hour with me. Maybe a little bit of homework. Finding people's full legal names and addresses. And then we do the rest.  And then you come in and you sign and you're done and people are like, it's like this weight off their chest. Like just do it. Yeah. It's not a terrible thing.

When I meet with people again, depending on the situation, I like to make light of it and you know, kind of. Focus on the fact that they're, they are doing this and not congratulate them. Not pat on the back, but like, you know, they, they feel like they ticked something off their list of things to do.

Yeah. That daunting list. Yep. So just do it. Great. Yeah. Thank you so much for speaking with me, Catherine. Welcome. Anytime. 


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