Including Your Whole Family in Your Will


Cape Breton families are growing increasingly complex. As of the 2016 Census, of the 12,960 families with at least one child under the age of 24 in Cape Breton, only 6,295 (48.6%) were intact families. 1,125 Cape Breton families with at least one child under the age of 24 were stepfamilies. 

Complex families can make the distribution of your estate…well…complex. However, if you have a stepfamily and want to ensure your whole family receives something from your estate, the most important step you can take is having a will prepared. In Nova Scotia, if you die intestate (without a will), the Intestate Succession Act governs the distribution of your estate. The Intestate Succession Act does not provide for step relations. Therefore, if you want your step relatives to receive anything from your estate, you will need to prepare a will. 

When it comes to preparing your will, here are some additional considerations for complex families:

Choosing an Executor: If you are concerned about tension and conflict between your family members following your death, you should carefully consider who you choose to be the executor of your will. In some situations it may be wise to choose a neutral third party as opposed to a family member. 

Mutual Wills: Some spouses with blended families choose to execute mutual wills. Spouses frequently create “mirror” wills, leaving everything to their spouse, and in the event their spouse predeceases them, to their children. However, you may want assurance that in the event you predecease your spouse, your children will still benefit from your estate. A mutual will includes a clear clause whereby the spouses agree that following the death of one spouse, the surviving spouse is prohibited from revoking or changing their will. 

Life Interests: Providing a spouse with a life interest is another option that may be attractive if you are trying to balance the interests of your spouse and your children in a blended family. A life interest enables the testator to leave an asset, for example a home or shareholdings, to their spouse, for the remainder of the spouse’s life, and then, on the spouse’s death, to their children. In some cases, a life interest to your spouse may be a better fit than leaving an asset for your spouse and children to share, which can lead to conflicts and even the forced sale of the asset. 

Sampson McPhee has prepared this publication to provide legal information of a general nature. It is not intended to provide legal advice. If you have any questions or concerns one of our lawyers will be happy to assist you. You can reach us by calling 902 539 2425.