A Government of Canada Will Kit – Does it exist?

Every Canadian adult should have a Will in place. It is a document that should be written as you turn 18 or 19, and should be updated throughout your life as your circumstances change. If we know that everybody should have a Will, it’s a reasonable question: is there a Government of Canada Will Kit that is made available to every Canadian? And if so, how do I get one?

The short answer is: “No, there is no Government of Canada Will kit”. This article explains why there isn’t, and what other options may be available to you.

Government of Canada Will Kit
Credit: 123rf

What is a Will kit?

To understand a Will kit, you have to understand what constitutes a legal Last Will and Testament. The requirements for a legal Will are that it must be in writing, on paper, and signed in the presence of two witnesses. There is no requirement to write a Will with a lawyer, or to have it stamped or registered. It simply needs to be a piece of paper that clearly states that the document is your Last Will and Testament. Ideally, it should include an Executor appointment, but at a minimum it should explain who will be receiving what parts of your “estate” (all of your assets, possessions, and financial assets).

If the entire document is written in your own handwriting, some provinces don’t even require the Will to be signed by witnesses. This is a “holographic Will”. But be careful because some provinces, notably BC, still require a handwritten Will to be signed in the presence of two witnesses.

So what does a Will kit do exactly?

A blank form Will kit attempts to give you a framework for including this information. It provides you with some typed text and some spaces to handwrite the blanks. The purpose of a blank form Will kit is to usually provide you with a guidebook, and prompt you to include things like an Executor appointment, backup Executor, guardians for minor children, and a distribution plan for your assets.

With a Will kit, you have a better chance of not forgetting something important – like a backup distribution plan in case one of your beneficiaries were to predecease you.

What is the difference between a Will kit and an online Will writing service like LegalWills.ca?

Blank form Will kits are still very basic. It is still very possible to make a mistake with a Will kit. They often come with too much blank space. Take this one for example:

Free Will Kits
Blank form Will kit

This Will kit is asking you to list the Powers to the Executor. It’s a very difficult task to any layperson – most people wouldn’t even understand the options for what could possibly listed in this section.

An Online Will writing service like the one at LegalWills.ca guides you through the process for preparing a Will by asking you a series of straightforward questions, with options for each section, like the distribution of your estate.

Options for distributing your estate

As you step through the service, you will be prompted to make sure that nothing has been overlooked, and that all possible scenarios have been accounted for. The final product is much more likely to be a usable Last Will and Testament.

Are provincial laws different for Wills?

To some extent yes. The legislation governing Wills and Estates is provincial law. Every province has its own Wills Act. For example, in Ontario it is the Succession Law Reform Act, in BC it is the Wills, Estates and Succession Act.

An example of a significant difference between these two laws is the signing procedure. Since the COVID pandemic, both Ontario and British Columbia allow a Will to be signed in a “remote presence” by witnesses (over a video call). In Ontario, the law requires at least one of the witnesses to be a practicing lawyer registered with the Law Society of Ontario. The document must then be mailed to each witness in turn, who must then sign the same document in ink.

In BC, the witnesses can be any two adults who can not only view the signing, but all parties can electronically sign the document using technology like the one adopted by LegalWills.ca with the electronic signing partner Syngrafii. Currently, BC is the only province that allows this.

Because the law governing the creation of Wills is provincial, you are unlikely to ever see a Federal Government Will Kit. In theory, there would be nothing preventing a Provincial government from creating a blank form Will kit, other than the quality of this type of kit, and the inevitable push back from the Law Societies for each province.

What are my options for getting a Will kit?

Currently there are a number of Will kits sold by private companies. The best known is probably the Canadian Personal Will Kit. It is the only physical Will kit with solid reviews and is sold both directly through their website, and also through Amazon. The cost for this Will kit is $34.95 and it supports all provinces and territories, except Québec.

Other Will kits are offered in Canada, and some are even free. But a free Will kit is either unsupported, or given away as a lure to upsell other products.

You can also buy physical Will kits in Staples, Chapters, or through Amazon.ca. But you must be careful when buying on Amazon.ca that the kits are truly Canadian, and that they are kept up-to-date. Laws can and do change. In spite of the solid reviews, some Amazon.ca products are USA based, and really look quite poor. They simply would not work in Canada.

Be careful when buying a Will kit online

Is a Will kit a good way to prepare a Will?

We believe that this is the most significant reason why there is no Government of Canada Will kit – blank form kits are generally a very poor approach to writing a Will, and it is difficult to design a Will kit that works for most people. It is also difficult to know whether a Will kit works for your situation or not.

Usually there is just way too much space on a blank Will kit, and way to much margin for making a big mistake with your Will. This is a genuine Will kit that we purchased.

Blank form Will Kit
Blank Will Kit

Is a Will kit better than nothing?

This is a false either/or option. It is a terrible idea to die without a Will. You would leave your family and loved ones with a horrible mess to sort out. Your assets would be frozen until the courts appoint an Executor, and your assets would be divided and distributed according to provincial law (no two provinces are the same). To avoid this, everybody needs a Will.

But writing your Will using a blank form Will kit is probably not the answer either. There is a good chance that this could also leave your family with a mess to sort out. It is possible to prepare a legally binding Will with a Will kit, but it’s not your best option.

Are there other ways to get a Will?

There are two other options for preparing a Will beyond handwriting the document or using a blank form Will kit. You can work with a lawyer (or a Notary in BC and Québec). This usually ensures that you have a well drafted Will, but it can be expensive and inconvenient. Not only in creating the Will, but also in keeping it up-to-date to reflect any changes in your personal or financial situation.

The increasingly popular approach to writing a Will is to use an online Will writing service like the one offered here at LegalWills.ca. For over 20 years our service has removed the barriers to writing a Will, by making it accessible and convenient. For just $49.95 and from the comfort of your home, you can have your Will in your hands in about 20 minutes.

Then why doesn’t the Canadian Government or even provincial Governments offer online Will writing services? Perhaps one day this will happen, but the provincial Law Societies may push back on the idea.

What about a Living Will and Financial Power of Attorney?

These are documents that actually can be downloaded from some provincial government websites. For example, the Saskatchewan government has some very good resources on their government website. The PEI government offers a very simple PoA form here. It really isn’t very good, but perhaps this really is better than nothing.

We would certainly recommend that if you needed a Will, Power of Attorney, or Living Will, you should use the service at LegalWills.ca where all three of these documents are available under the Complete Estate Plan for just $99.

Tim Hewson