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 Of those that did, 12 percent were out of date.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
A key question that many people struggle with is: Who will be your executor in your Last Will and Testament?
Okay, who or what exactly is your Executor?
First of all, it is important to know the definition of an executor and what role they play in your last will and testament.
It is your executor’s responsibility to handle your last wishes. The executor is in charge of handling the estate and distributing property and possessions according to your instructions. It is also their duty to settle debts; a required step before your executor can distribute inheritances.
We provide a complete list of Executor responsibilities as part of our services at LegalWills.ca.
Securing your Estate
Your executor must keep your assets safe. You may have heard of terrible episodes of a person dying and the family descending on the estate. It can become a free-for-all where things just start disappearing. “He always told me that I could have this” says the favourite niece as she walks out of the door with the Andy Warhol pencil sketch. Continue reading
There appears to be divided opinion on the importance of Wills. There are a group who believe that a Will is a document to be written on one’s deathbed, as a final statement to explain who will receive the family heirlooms. Fortunately, most of us are wiser, and understand that a Will is something that everybody needs, no matter how old, or how wealthy. A Will is a vital part of your financial plan that is written when you are young, and updated throughout your lifetime.
“Fortunately I don’t need a Will yet”
A caller contacting LegalWills.ca on behalf of their mother
But statistics show that what we know about Wills, and what we actually do about Wills are two very different things. I think most of us were shocked to hear that Prince didn’t have a Will, while silently thinking that it’s something that we really need to get to ourselves.
Recent surveys have been quite consistent in putting the number of Canadians without a Will at just over half. A 2013 CIBC survey put the number at “about half”, while a 2012 LawPRO survey claimed that 56% of Canadians did not have a Will in place. Most recently, in 2014 the BC Notaries reported a number of 55% of British Columbians without a Will.
At LegalWills.ca we were interested in not only the number of people without a Will, but also the number of people with out-of-date Wills. This came from a social discussion on Wills that went something like this;
Dave: I do have a Will, but I wrote it a while ago.
Me: you think it may need to be updated?
Dave: Well, I wrote it just after we got married, but before we had the children.
Me: Are you kidding me? your girls are now 24 and 21 years old !! you don’t have a Will. Continue reading
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
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
Dying intestate means that you have died without a Will.
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
First a definition;
A 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.
At LegalWills.ca we offer a complete set of estate planning services which include the Last Will and Testament, the financial Power of Attorney, and what we have been calling the “Living Will”. Our Living Will service typically includes a Healthcare Power of Attorney, that allows you to appoint a person to make medical decisions on your behalf (a Healthcare Proxy). And also a Healthcare Directive that allows you to express the type of healthcare you wish to receive if you were ever unable to speak for yourself. We collectively call all of these documents your “Advance Directives”.
We received an email from Pashta MaryMoon the Director of CINDEA – Canadian Integrative Network for Death Education and Alternatives. She expressed concern that we were using the term “Living Will” when it is not a widely used term in Canada and has been borrowed from the US.
After discussions we felt that it would be a great opportunity for Pashta to share with our community the correct use of terminology for Advance Care. The rest of this article is a guest post from Pashta MaryMoon from CINDEA.
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.
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
We 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.
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;
A month ago I was at a dinner party. I met a couple who had young children and the conversation naturally led to how we make a living. I explained that I was one of the founders of LegalWills.ca, the online convenient affordable service for writing a legal Will. The couple were thrilled, they had two young children, they knew that they needed to prepare their legal Will, but hadn’t got around to it. It was on their list of things to do, but as with all tasks with no real deadline, it never seem to make it to the top of their list.
They loved the idea of just going online one evening, stepping through the service, compiling their document, and then printing, signing in front of witnesses and creating their legal Will. So excited were they, that I gave them my business card with a discount code.
One month later, they still haven’t written their legal Will.
They still haven’t named an Executor for their estate, guardians for their children, made any charitable bequests, set up trusts for their children, created a distribution plan for their estate.
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.
Everybody needs a Last Will and Testament, but does everybody need a Canadian Living Will? We are asked this question a lot, and the answer is not always clear. Everybody should prepare a Living Will, but not every Living Will is going to be used. Most people will never find themselves in a situation where they need a Living Will, but if you are ever in that situation, it is a vital document, but by then it is too late.
According to a 2014 Harris/Decima poll, although nearly all Canadians (96%) believe it is important to have a conversation Continue reading
“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
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 !!
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
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.
Is it possible to get a will written without a lawyer? What is an online Will?
We saw this question recently posted on Quora and we were a little surprised by the misinformation provided in the answers. They included the tired old analogies to “you wouldn’t remove your own appendix, so you shouldn’t prepare your own Will” (the two tasks are nothing close to comparable), and also a rather surprising answer from a lawyer who claimed “In non-emergency situations, you must get it done through a lawyer.” which is absolute nonsense.
I would like to provide some reasons why it would actually be advantageous to prepare a Will without a lawyer, but first some clarification on the term “online Will”
What is an “online Will” service
There is no such thing as an online Will. A Will has to be printed, signed and witnessed in order to be made legal. Online, scanned or digitized versions of a Will are not legal documents. Any service that offers to store your Will online or in the cloud are misrepresenting what they can do because based on current law in Canada, a copy of a Will stored in the cloud cannot be probated. Our partner website that allows you to write your own Will in the US recently published a blog post explaining this. So when we talk about an online Will service, we are really talking about an Will service that is online. Once you have stepped through the service, the document must be printed, signed and witnessed to be made into a legal Last Will and Testament. Continue reading
I don’t get it….you say you are Canadian Legal Wills, but you don’t support Québec. Québec is a part of Canada you know…
Whenever we receive any kind of feedback, we always do everything we can to address the issue, but the support of Québec Wills is a really tricky challenge.
Background to Québec Law on Wills
To provide some background, Québec law was established around the middle of the 17th century. Louis XIV decreed that the laws of Québec would be based on the laws of Paris which were a variant of “civil law”. Although the laws changed a little in the years that followed, the Québec Act of 1774 reinstated the Civil law system for the Province of Québec even though it had since been placed under British rule. When Canada was officially created in 1867 all Provinces adopted the British “Common law” of English origin while Québec retained their “Civil Law” derived from the Napoleonic code.