Attention to detail is important in making bequests in a Will. Photo by Rachel Loftis

What’s in a name? As it turns out, a lot

  • November 1, 2019

It seems easy and straightforward. You make out your Will, you divide your assets between family, charitable causes and other beneficiaries and all is said and done — your wishes now in writing and detailed for those who survive you.

But all it takes is one little mistake, being short of that one last detail, to set the stage for a battle royale on how your assets will be shared upon your death. Rather than your Will giving voice to your wishes, and instead of your beneficiaries getting what you had hoped to pass on to them, it’s the lawyers who are involved and taking away from what you had hoped to pass along because due diligence wasn’t done.

Arthur Peters sees this happen — not often, but enough to know that you need to be extremely careful when making out your Will.

“The legal wording is important so that somewhere down the road there isn’t a legal challenge,” said Peters, executive director of ShareLife, the charitable fund-raising arm of the Archdiocese of Toronto.

It could be a very simple mistake, one those making a Will might not even notice. Take the example of someone who wants to leave a portion of their estate to their parish, Peters said. It’s important that you get the full legal name of the parish to make sure your gift is directed to the right parish. You could leave your money to St. Patrick’s Parish for instance. But the first question Peters has is, “Which one?” After all, throughout the Toronto archdiocese that could be St. Patrick’s in Markham, or downtown Toronto. Or it could be one of the rural parishes with the name, like St. Patrick’s In Perkinsfield near Midland, or in Elmvale north of Barrie. Even a St. Patrick’s outside of the archdiocese.

“These questions come up,” said Peters, and it’s important that you have the correct legal advice to make sure your wishes are clear for the executor of your Will.

To do that, the Office of Development and Stewardship at the Archdiocese of Toronto is prepared to help you when you are arranging the disbursement of your estate.

“What our office does is help to inform, educate parishioners on correct legal wording when you’re developing a Will,” said Peters.

A gift in your Will makes a lasting statement about what has been important to you in life. Most people look after family first, but after that, there are any number of causes or organizations, such as the Catholic Church, they may wish to support.

There are three common types of bequests the development office generally deals with: the residuary bequest where once your loved ones are looked after, you may wish to leave the rest of your estate to your parish or favourite archdiocesan charity; the general bequest leaving the Church a specific dollar amount, a set percentage of the estate or a particular asset; and a contingency bequest where you leave a portion of your estate to the Church if a named beneficiary does not survive you.

To prepare your Will, a lawyer will need the legal title of the part of the Church you wish to support. Your intent might be ShareLife, but it’s important you get the proper legal title correct — The ShareLife Trust — so that there is no confusion. It’s even more important with your parish, like in the instance of St. Patrick’s where there is more than one. That’s why the legal title of your parish is the Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation for the Diocese of Toronto, in Canada for the Benefit of (insert name and address of parish).

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