We wrote a blog article back in 2014 explaining why we didn’t support Québec Wills. We explained that it was a really tricky challenge. But the good news is that after months of work, we can now proudly say that our service is available across the whole of Canada, no exceptions. All of our services now support all Canadian provinces and territories, including Québec.
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.
Since 1994, estate planning law in Québec has been guided by the Civil Code of Quebec, and particularly the book on Successions. Many of the components used in estate planning are similar in concept to the the rest of Canada, but there are many different terms and expressions used (incidentally Louisiana has different laws than the rest of the US for the similar historical reasons).
The structure of a Will
The basic structure of a Last Will and Testament in any jurisdiction is the same. The document:
- Identifies the person creating the Will
- Revokes all previous Wills
- Names a person to carry out the instructions in the Will
- Describes the distribution of the estate
- Names guardians for minors if applicable and sets up trusts for those minors
- Has a signature page with space for two witnesses to sign
This is why, in most jurisdictions, a Will handwritten on a blank piece of paper is perfectly acceptable. If these key components are included, then you have a valid Will. However, it may not necessarily be a well drafted document.
Because the key concepts are the same in every jurisdiction, there was an attempt to harmonize laws across jurisdictions by creating an “International Will”. Most jurisdictions accept an international Will, but again, this type of document would lack some of the detail required for a very well written Last Will and Testament. You would likely be missing some of the detail required, including trusts for minors, alternate provisions, residuary clauses, guardians for minor children, and powers granted to the trustee.
Key differences in Québec Wills
The key differences are in the limitations on what can be included or excluded from a Will, and also in the wording of the clauses. So much so that a Will written for Québec ends up looking dramatically different than a Will written for any other province in Canada. Our Will writing service at LegalWills.ca does change from province to province to take into account things like the age of majority, and our help text varies when describing things like the effect of marriage and divorce on the status of a Will. However, Québec law is so different from the rest of Canada that our service, and particularly the help text, had to be completely re-written.
Types of Québec Wills
One of the most significant differences in Québec law is the concept of a Notarial Will. If a Will is written with a notary and signed by one other witness, no probating of the Will is required. The notary public system and the use of Notaries is unique to Québec, and their powers are different from the rest of Canada (actually, the qualifications and responsibilities of Notaries varies quite significantly from province to province).
Two other types of Wills are allowed in Québec which more closely match the rest of Canada. The holographic Will, written entirely in the handwriting of the testator, is accepted in most Canadian provinces, including Québec (not BC, incidentally). This type of Will usually doesn’t have to be witnessed, so it is the fastest approach to preparing a Will. However, it is not generally recommended because it is actually very difficult to write a Will starting with a blank piece of paper with no legal training.
The third type of Will accepted in the Province of Québec is the “Will Made in the Presence of Witnesses”: sometimes called a “Will following the form derived from the laws of England”. This is the closest match to the standard Wills that are created throughout the other Canadian Provinces.
This is the type of Will that is now supported through our MyWill service.
Despite its similarities, there are differences, particularly with some of the terms used. In a Québec Will:
- Guardians are called Tutors
- Beneficiaries are called Legatees
- Executors are called Liquidators
- Estate is called Succession
- Codicil is called a Modification
Creating your Legal Will in Québec
Residents of Québec still face the same challenges as the rest of Canada; it can be expensive and inconvenient to prepare a Will, yet every adult should have one. Some services are popping up to address this need, but we haven’t seen anything offered quite to the level of the service at LegalWills.ca. Most services offer a variety of blank forms, which end up being somewhat limited in their capabilities and usually lack the error checking of an interactive online service.
It has taken us months of work collaborating with Legal professionals in Québec, and we now believe we have the most complete service available in the province today. It has been completely rewritten to support the unique laws of Québec.
Not only that, but all of our supporting material, including the MyFuneral service, MyLifeLocker, MyVault, Living Will, and Power of Attorney services are now re-written to become Protection Mandates in Québec. It has been a massive overhaul of our services.
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