How to Write a Will in Ontario

There are essentially three approaches to writing a Will in Ontario.

  1. You can write your own Will starting with a blank sheet of paper or a blank form Will kit
  2. You can prepare your Will with a professional lawyer
  3. You can use Will writing software like the service at LegalWills.ca

Background to Ontario Law

In Ontario, a Will must comply with the Ontario Succession Law Reform Act of 1990. The law states that:

  • A Will is only valid if it is in writing (video Wills, audio recordings, or verbal promises are not legally accepted)
  • At the end of the document it must be signed by the “testator” (person for whom the Will is made) and also signed by two witnesses.
  • The testator may make a valid will completely in their own handwriting and signature, without the presence, attestation, or signature of a witness (this is a “holographic Will”).

There are other interesting clauses within the Succession Law Reform Act, including the minimum age, and special clauses for active military service members. However, the clauses we have highlighted are the most pertinent to the discussion of how to make a legal Will in Ontario.

Writing a Will in Ontario
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How to cover assets outside of Canada in your Will – the Expat Will.

We live in an increasingly global World. People travel more, settle into new countries, and even share their time between different countries. Traditionally, the idea of owning assets in different countries was reserved for the extremely wealthy. But nearly ten years ago, at LegalWills.ca we created the Expat Will, the first of its kind available anywhere, and we have been pleasantly surprised at how frequently this services has been used.

The Expat Will solves a problem that cannot be addressed by traditional approaches to Will writing. And offers a service to an increasing number of people with assets in more than one country.

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Couple’s Will – Writing Wills as a couple in Canada.

Fifty-five percent of the people who use the Will writing service at LegalWills.ca describe themselves as married, a further eleven percent are in a common-law relationship. In most cases, these people are preparing their Wills as a couple. Looking for a “couple’s Will”. In this post we want to break down exactly what is meant by a Couple’s Will, and the steps involved in creating Wills for two people when using the service at LegalWills.ca

Creating a couple's Will at LegalWills.ca
Couple creating their Will at LegalWills.ca

How can I prepare a Will in Canada?

Let us start by discussing the different ways to prepare a Last Will and Testament in Canada which boils down to essentially three approaches:

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Every document you need – how to write it, and how much it costs.

We live in unprecedented times. We have a COVID-19 global pandemic. People are being told to self-isolate. Others are being placed in quarantine.

It’s a worrying situation that does not appear to be abating.

It may be time to pause and to think about which documents you should have in place. If COVID-19 goes away, and we all hope it does, these documents are still important, and will last you for the rest of your life. Hopefully that will be another 50 years or more. The documents may need to be updated as your circumstances change, but it is important to have them in place.

In this article we will describe a complete list of documents that you should put in place. We will explain how to create one, how much it costs, and the legal formalities for each.

Estate planning documents
Your important documents
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Online Will service – 11 things that you can do at LegalWills.ca

LegalWills.ca features that are not supported by any other leading online Will service.

We often see reviews of online Will writing services. These reviews typically look as far as pricing, look and feel of the website, maybe support options. Unfortunately reviewers rarely take the Will service itself for a test drive. They don’t usually imagine different scenarios to determine how capable the Will service is in addressing different demands.

At LegalWills.ca we confidently regard our Will writing service as the most complete, and most flexible service of any online Will application.

Online Will service
The Will service at LegalWills.ca

In this article, we will take a quick look at just eleven things that you can do at LegalWills.ca, things that are not supported by other leading online Will writing platforms.

Customer review
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The cost of a Will in Canada 2021 – explained.

Two of the most frequently asked questions we receive at LegalWills.ca are:

  1. How come your Wills are so cheap?
  2. Why are your Wills so expensive?

In this article, we will discuss the cost of a Will. We will explain the different ways to prepare a Will, why each approach costs what it does, what you get and don’t get when preparing a Will in a certain way. Finally, we will explain what goes into our pricing of $39.95 for our Will service.

Executive summary of this article

  • A Last Will and Testament is a 4-6 page document that allows you to make key appointments, and describes the distribution of your assets (bank accounts, property etc) after you have died.
  • There are broadly speaking 3 ways to make a Will; i) visit an estate planning lawyer, ii) attempt to write your own using a do-it-yourself Will kit or blank sheet of paper and iii) use interactive software that guides you through the process.
  • Depending on the approach you take, this document can cost you absolutely nothing, or over $1,000. But each approach is a good fit for certain situations, and each has certain pros and cons which we explain in the article.
  • Our Will service costs $39.95. This covers our costs of customer support, legal team, software development, advertising. We do not sell your data or sell advertising to you. Our costs are covered by the price we charge for our Will service.

What exactly is a Last Will and Testament?

Cost of a Will
source: 123rf
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It doesn’t matter how young you are, you need a Will.

I’m young – do I need a Will?

You need a Will. In fact, there is never a circumstance where planning to not have a Will is a good idea. Dying without a Will is not a strategy, no matter how old or young you may be, you need a Will.

On a daily basis not many of us like to think about our inevitable death. It’s morbid and a subject that most of us don’t want to pay much attention to. Like going to the dentist for a root canal or having that screening at the hospital, there are some uncomfortable scenarios that we put off for as long as possible. Writing a Will should not be one of them.

But the thought of going over your possessions and paying a lawyer can be too much for some people. However, there comes a time when we need to face the cold hard reality that we won’t live forever and having a Will really isn’t for your benefit, but you write a Will for your loved ones. Granted, creating a Will may not be fun, and when you’re young there are a million and one things you would rather do but it’s actually not such a hard thing to do once you get over the mental hump. And you may actually learn something along the way.

To help you see the benefits of having a Will we have outlined why you’re (almost) never too young, and no matter the age, you need a Will.No matter the age, you need a Will

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Why do most people avoid writing a Will?

Why Do Most People Avoid Writing a Will?

Why do most people avoid writing a Will? Recent headlines suggest that people can avoid paying taxes for a considerable period. You just have to know your way around the system. However, none of us can cheat death forever.

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”

Benjamin Franklin

Immortality is not an option. We all know that one day our time will come. Yet most of us just don’t want to think about it. This is probably one of the most common reasons for not writing a Will.

A Will allows you to decide what happens to your assets and even your children if you die. So why is it that less than half of the adult population of Canada have made a Will? It is an easy process which doesn’t cost much in terms of time or money.

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Using an Estate planning lawyer? Here are 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 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

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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Why I haven’t written my legal Will – a confession

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.

Legal Will

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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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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

Video

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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Six good reasons to prepare an online Will

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.

Online Will

 

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

Dying without a Will in Canada

If a Canadian dies without a Will, they have left a bit of a mess for their loved ones, and sadly missed out on an opportunity to distribute their assets in a meaningful way. Instead of recognizing friends or organizations that have made an impact on their life, they have left all of the planning to their Provincial government who have already decided how the assets will be divided. It may come as a surprise however, to learn that every Province is different and that there are some very inaccurate assumptions. In this post we will run through a few scenarios, and highlight some Provincial differences.

 

Let us start with the most common misconception;

If you are married, then your entire estate will go to your spouse.

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Do I need a Will?

The statistics still show that over 65% of adults in Canada do not have an up-to-date Last Will and Testament – even though most people know that they need a Will. Once in a while, somebody will tell us that they don’t need a Last Will and Testament – yet. Here are the top ten excuses for not having a Will, and we will explain why everybody should take the time to prepare their Will write now.

Last Will and Testament

1. Everything is going to my spouse whether I have a Will or not

In reality, there is not a single Province in Canada in which you can guarantee that this will be the case. Without a Will, the distribution of your estate is determined by “intestate law”, which follows a rather complicated flow depending on your family situation. What makes it more complicated is that no two Provinces are the same. In most Provinces, if you are married with children, your spouse will not receive the entire estate. Continue reading