Making a Will in Canada – the Complete Guide to your Options

What is the purpose of a Will?

Your Last Will and Testament allows you to speak after you have passed away. It does absolutely nothing and has no powers whatsoever all the time you are alive. But as soon as you die your Will has two key functions: it allows you to make key appointments and it allows you to describe the distribution of your assets. These assets include money, possessions, houses, investments, everything that you own. Making a Will is one of the most important responsibilities of every adult, and it should not be put off until a distant day in the future when you are “old”.

You should not think of making a Will as a once-in-a-lifetime event. You should always have a Will in place that reflects your current situation. You should write your first Will as soon as you are an adult, and then update it throughout your life as your circumstances change.

 

Your Key Appointments

By Making a Will you can make two key appointments.

Your Executor

This is the person you entrust to carry out the instructions in your Will. They have the responsibility to arrange your funeral, gather and secure your assets, and then distribute them according to the instructions in the Will. It is a very important appointment. Continue reading

Mirror Will – What is it? When should I use it? Is it right for me?

What is a Mirror Will?

A Mirror Will is actually two Wills, usually created by partners or married couples. The two Wills typically name each partner as the main beneficiary of the other partner’s estate. There may be other specific gifts within the Will, such as gifts to charities, but the two Wills look identical to each other, except that typically, the name of the main beneficiary is the partner of each testator.

Person A leaves everything to Person B. Person B leaves everything to Person A.

Then for the two Wills to be true mirror Wills, each Will describes an identical alternate plan in the event that both partners are involved in a common accident. Often this is that the entire estate is then distributed to the children.

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Setting up a Pet Trust: who cares for your pet after you are gone?

According to a recent survey conducted by BMO Bank of Montreal, 89 percent of Canadians consider their pets to be a member of their family. It stands to reason then that most people would want to ensure that somebody looks after their pet after they are gone. But hardly any Canadians have set up a pet trust to ensure that their pet receives proper care after they are gone.

If you make no provision for your pet as part of your estate plan, your dog or cat could potentially end up at the humane society. In 2015 82,000 cats and 35,000 dogs were taken into Canadian shelters, of which 48 per cent of dogs and 57 per cent of cats were adopted.

A Pet trust is not just for the wealthy

Whenever there is mention of a pet trust in the news, it is usually because of an extreme bequest, or staggering wealth of the pet owner. We saw is with Leona Helmsley who in 2008 left $12 Million to her pet Maltese. Continue reading

The specific grounds to challenge a Will in Canada

How to Contest or Challenge a Will

For many of us the loss of a family member is a very upsetting and stressful time, and we are not always thinking clearly during this emotional state. As a result, there are often times when an estate is distributed but some beneficiaries feel that it has not been done in accordance with the Will or that they have still missed out in some way. This isn’t uncommon and as any estate lawyer will tell you, a large part of their work involves resolving estate disputes between family members and other beneficiaries.

But if you are tempted to challenge a Will, be aware that there are specific reasons why you can challenge a Will. Although you may feel cheated, this may not alone be sufficient grounds for contesting a Will.

Some General Considerations

If you believe that you have not received a sufficient benefit under a Will and you fit certain criteria, you may be able to challenge a Will. Contesting a Will means applying to the court to have the Will, or parts of the Will, deemed invalid. While there may be a good reason you were left out, there may also be other possibilities.

Since contesting a Will is expensive and time-consuming, it is a good idea to get legal advice before you proceed. In addition, contesting a Will requires formal steps and procedures, and will only be successful if you can provide evidence to support your claim. Because the maker of the Will is deceased, any statements that you allege the deceased said, must be corroborated or confirmed by a witness. Depending on the jurisdiction, you may have to go to mediation and try to resolve the issues.  If the case is not settled at mediation, it will then go to trial.
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Write a Will in Canada: the complete guide to our Canadian Legal Wills

Learn to write a Will at LegalWills.ca

An increasing number of Canadians are turning to services like the one at LegalWills.ca to write a Will. But every day we received requests from our customers to clarify a term, or clause in their Will. Usually this request comes with an apology for their lack of understanding, and every time we have to give the reassurances that;

  1. Although writing a Will is extremely important, it is not something that most of us do more than once of twice in a lifetime, so there is no reason to expect anybody to understand these terms.
  2. A Will is such an important document, but the legal profession intentionally tries to make the document more complicated that it needs to be by using arcane language. There is absolutely no reason for a Will to say, “I give, bequeath and devise” when a simple “I give” would work. Or to say, “I nominate, constitute and appoint” when a simple “I appoint” would mean the same thing. But using arcane language is a way of pushing people into using the services of a legal professional because it seems beyond the capabilities of the layperson.
  3. Nobody should be required to learn all of these terms in order to write a Will, and there are no clear concise guides that we could find.

Having said that, our Wills still use a lot of legal language, because the document is based on Continue reading

Using an Estate planning lawyer? Here’s some questions to ask…

Wondering whether our service is right for you? considering using an estate planning lawyer?

We know that 62 percent of Canadians don’t have a Will in place. A further 12 percent have a Will, but it’s out of date.

Even with that harrowing stat, the legal community still try to warn people against preparing their own Will. Claiming that you can only obtain a quality Last Will and Testament from an estate planning lawyer. Any approach to writing your own Will is going to result in pain for your family and loved ones.

In truth, there was some merit in this argument about 20 years ago when the only do-it-yourself Will writing options were a blank piece of paper, or a blank form Will kit. Both approaches are a disaster waiting to happen, and many estates went through protracted legal battles to settle an ambiguous instruction. Or worse, a Will was simply thrown out because it wasn’t signed correctly.

Thankfully in the years since LegalWills.ca came online in 2001, the online interactive Will writing services have come a long way. Much like tax preparation software that faced a similar backlash from tax preparing accountants, the use of online interactive Will writing services has grown year by year.

Will writing office

Online Will writing services have also improved to a point that for 99 percent of people, the final Will document is indistinguishable from a Will created by an estate planning lawyer. We know this because we use the exact same software used by any estate planning lawyer in Canada. We’ve just give you direct access to it.

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The Free Will Kit – why they are not such a great idea

There are two types of people who comment on our pricing, those who have previously used a lawyer, and those who are considering the use of a free Will kit.

The first group usually say;

“Wow, I was quoted $800 to write my Will, and your service is less than $40. How can your service possibly be any good?”

the second group say;

“$40 for a Last Will and Testament? Why on earth would I pay that if I can pay nothing with a free Will kit?”

In this article we are going to address the issue raised by the second group.

dollar store

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The Affidavit of Execution and signing your Will. What makes a Will legal?

One of the most common misconceptions associated with writing your own Will is around the signing process. We answer this question ten times a day, so I thought I would provide some explanation. Many of you may have heard of an Affidavit of Execution, but you may be unsure of what it is, and what role it plays in authenticating your Will.

 

Writing your own Will – is it legal?

There are generally speaking three approaches to writing your Will.

1. Working with an estate planning lawyer or Will writer.

In some Canadian provinces (particularly BC and Québec) Notary Publics also have the authority to prepare a Will for you. Writing your Will with a lawyer or notary gives you a good chance of getting a quality Last Will and Testament (but not a guarantee!!). The downside of course is that it is often expensive, and certainly inconvenient to arrange an appointment with a lawyer. Even if you managed to write your Will, you probably wouldn’t make the time to update it to reflect any changes in your circumstances. The time and money barriers are so significant, that in a recent survey we found that 62 percent of Canadians didn’t have a Will. Of those that did, 12 percent were out of date. Continue reading

Digital assets in your Last Will and Testament – you need a plan.

As we spend more time online, our social, sentimental, and financial assets have begun to migrate online as well. Collectively, we have come to call these items, your digital assets.

Unfortunately, people all too frequently neglect the digital component when they write a Will. You probably haven’t considered creating a plan for your Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter accounts. Maybe you have recently experienced the loss of a friend and seen first hand the mis-management of online accounts for people who are no longer alive, I know I have. Sadly, three of my ex-colleagues have died, and every year, LinkedIn still prompts me to congratulate them on their work anniversary.

But there is much more to digital assets than your social accounts. Some of these assets simply need to be managed, some need named beneficiaries, and some have real monetary value and should be included as part of your estate.

 

Your Digital Assets – what are they?

You can divide the three most common forms of digital assets into three categories: social, sentimental, and financial digital assets. You may have a plan for your social assets, but having a comprehensive plan for your sentimental and financial assets is probably more important. Continue reading

The Canadian Will Kit – and the evolution of Will services

Many of us remember the TV ads for the Canadian Will Kit. It later became the Complete Canadian estate planning kit. It’s been over a decade since those ads ran on TV and Radio, and to this day, we still receive calls from people looking for one.

Unfortunately, these kits became synonymous with “writing your own Will”. The kits were bad, the Wills that they created caused many problems, and so people still think that writing your own Will is a bad idea.

 

The common criticisms of “boilerplate” Wills like the Canadian Will Kit, and “one-size fits all” kits are still trotted out by lawyers advising people against writing their own Wills. But these criticisms are woefully out of date, and simply no longer apply to online Will services like the one at LegalWills.ca. Continue reading

Six consequences of dying intestate in Canada

Dying intestate means that you have died without a Will.

dying intestate

I’m not sure that anybody plans to die without a Will. After all, most people don’t plan to die. But it happens. In fact, the vast majority of Canadian adults do not have a Will in place, and most of these people think that they will probably have plenty of opportunities to write one at some time in the future.

Dying intestate…who does that?

Amy Winehouse, Barry White, Jimi Hendrix, Sonny Bono and Bob Marley would make a terrific band. However, what brings them together in this article is that they all suffered the ignominy of dying intestate.

But you don’t have to be young with a rock and roll lifestyle to end up dying without a Will. Roman Blum was 97 years old with an estate valued at $40M, he died without a Will and and incredibly with no heirs. His entire fortune in this case, was destined for the government coffers. Continue reading

Wills for Blended families and stepfamilies

Wills for Blended families

First a definition;

stepfamily or blended family is a family where at least one parent has children, from a previous relationship, that are not genetically related to the other parent. Either one or both parents may have children from a previous relationship. Children from a stepfamily may live with one biological parent, or they may live with each biological parent for a period of time.

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Before you make a Will – some definitions for non-lawyers

Writing your Will can be a very simple process, but because it is only done a few times in your life, it can be intimidating. It can seem daunting because there are so many unfamiliar terms used in the estate planning world. Expressions that are second nature to the legal community, but are not in everyday use for the rest of us. Before you make a Will, it is important to familiarize yourself with some of the more common expressions.

Just because the terms are unfamiliar, they are not complicated concepts. In this article we will explain a few of the words that you will need to know before you make a Will. We hope that we can demystified the process a little.

Mke a Will

 

Intestate

The term intestate is typical of much of the legal language in that it is derived from Latin, and in today’s World it means that you have died without a Will. Continue reading

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Customer question of the day: How to Register a Will

Register a WillWe get this question a lot. “Once I have prepared my Last Will and Testament, and signed it in the presence of two witnesses, what do I do with it to make it legal? How do I register a Will?”

When do you register a Will?

In Canada, there is no way to register a Will until after you have died, and at this time, the Will is registered with the probate courts. In some Provinces, like British Columbia, you are able to register the location of your Will for a fee, but in our opinion, there is really little point in doing this.

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Customer question of the day – updating a Will

Hello, I am trying to seek additional information regarding updating a Will . My question is , every time I update or change my will, do I need to go after the witness every time to re sign? How do I go about changing, updating without having to get them re signed. Thanks.

There is no way of updating a Will without having witnesses sign the update. There are only three ways to update your Will;

Updating a Will Continue reading

Challenging a Will: What are the grounds for contesting a Will in Canada?

I was told that if I don’t create a Will through a lawyer, somebody will end up challenging the Will. Is that true?

This is one of the most common misconceptions we hear related to preparing one’s own Will. If you prepare a Will through a lawyer’s office for $600 it won’t be challenged, but it you write a Will yourself, or through a service like LegalWills.ca it is bound to be contested. The reality is that any Will can be contested, but challenging a Will can only be successful under one of eight conditions.

 

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Planned Giving: the state of charitable bequests in Canada

“A note on Privacy: the protection and security of the documents created on our web site are of critical importance. In particular, we cannot access any information contained in a specific Will, nor can we read a person’s Will. However, we are able to access aggregated data from an encrypted database folder that summarizes the number of times particular choices have been made within our service. We cannot connect this information to individual accounts. It is this data that has been mined to provide the information in this post”

At LegalWills.ca we help tens of thousands of Canadians create their Last Will and Testament, probably more than any other organization in Canada. Last year, we started to educate ourselves on the state of “planned giving”, that is, leaving something to charity in your Will. According to the most recent Statistics Canada report, both the amount donated to charities by taxfilers and the number of people reporting charitable donations fell from 2011 to 2012. Donations reported by taxfilers declined 1.9% to $8.3 billion in 2012, while the number of people reporting charitable donations on their 2012 income tax return decreased by 1.4% to 5.6 million. Around 23 percent of all tax filers include a charitable bequest in their tax declarations for any given year.

Although charitable giving may be on the decline, we were interested in the level of “planned giving” that is, the Continue reading

Lawyers and their egregious charges

CBC’s Marketplace recently featured a special – trying to find the most shocking fees charged by lawyers in Canada.

 

The banks and airlines featured prevalently in the discussion, but so did lawyers. People seemed to be incensed by the nickel-and-diming billing practices and when it came to voting for the 5 most egregious fees, one particular lawyer was included.

One of the most ridiculous submissions takes nickel-and-diming to a new level. One man complained of being charged precise amounts for every office supply his lawyer used.

“[I was] charged separately for staples ($0.07 each) and paperclips ($0.12 each) on my legal bill for doing up a will.”

It’s important to read this carefully. The lawyer wasn’t charging for the staples and paperclips in the Will, no, they were charging for the staples and paperclips used on the bill that was prepared for creating the Will !!

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Ten myths about a Canadian Last Will and Testament

Having watched families fight over the estate and end up not speaking to each other for the rest of their lives, I can tell you first hand that leaving this world without making a plan for what’s in your estate is one of the worst thing you could do for your loved ones.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, the CBC led their business section with an article on writing a Canadian Last Will and Testament and suggested that you should discuss with your children exactly how you were planning to divide your estate.

 

There were some great comments on the article from people who were living the nightmare of administering an estate, some estates had a Will involved and some didn’t. Problems arose with children fighting over particular bequests, Executors were not following the legal procedures, aged parents were being forced to change their Wills in the advanced years. What struck me though was the level of misunderstanding of estate planning law from the general public. In a total of 200 comments, I have picked out 10 terrible misconceptions that people have taken the time to submit in response to the article. The lesson here is do not take legal advice from a comment forum. Continue reading

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How I wrote my Canadian Will in five minutes. And you can too.

At LegalWills.ca we claim that you can create a well-drafted Canadian Will in as little as 20 minutes. Clearly, there are some important decisions to be made, and it’s not something that should be written hastily, but if you have a straightforward situation and you know how you want your estate to be distributed, it really shouldn’t take you very long to prepare your Will.

To illustrate this, in the following video I create my Canadian Will, or more specifically my Ontario legal Will, in about 5 minutes.

Video transcript

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