A Last Will and Testament should not be written once in a lifetime. It should be written as soon as you become an adult, and should be updated throughout your life as your circumstances change.
There are a number of reasons for updating a Will. You may have had a change of financial circumstances or your personal situation may have changed. For example, you may have married or had children.
There may also have been a change of circumstances for somebody named in your Will. Perhaps your Executor has taken ill or your chosen guardians for your children have moved overseas.
You may also simply have had a change of heart. A charity may have become a significant part of your life and you want to recognize their work in your Will. Of course your relationships with your beneficiaries can also change.
What happens if you have a Will in place and want to change that Will?
There are Three Ways to Legally Change a Will
1: You can manually annotate your Will by writing on it. You would still need to at least initial the change, and also have two witnesses sign or initial next to that change. It is the least preferred approach to updating a Will because it is the most likely way to have a Will challenged. However, if the change is relatively benign, you could certainly consider this, E.g. for updating an address.
Are you thinking of writing a Will? Have you perhaps heard of terms like “Executor”, “Bequest”, “Living Will” and are now worried that the process of writing your Will may be beyond you? You may be wondering whether it is possible to write a Will without understanding all of these legal expressions. After all, that’s why many people hire a lawyer to prepare the document for them.
You may be surprised to learn that you really don’t need to understand any of these legal words in order to use a service like LegalWills.ca. However, the words may appear in your final Will, and in that context they will make sense to you. We also explain some of the key definitions when you are working through the service. But you may be interested to learn exactly what some of these words actually mean.
Perhaps you wrote your Will with a lawyer. You have had it witnessed and now it’s stored at your lawyer’s office but you still have no idea what it says. Don’t worry, this isn’t an uncommon situation. Many people go through the whole task of writing a Will and signing it when they don’t fully understand what it says.
Unfortunately in today’s legal world, estate attorneys don’t always have sufficient time to go over every detail and word of a Will. This is partly because their time costs money, but also because writing a Will is an everyday common practice to them. Therefore, they often neglect to go over the basics with their clients. An experienced and understanding estate attorney should always be willing to go over every detail of your Will and explain any confusing language so that you feel comfortable when signing it. However, the legal environment can be intimidating and attorneys may assume that you understand the legal terms when in fact you don’t.
At LegalWills.ca we almost fall into the same pattern ourselves when we talk to customers about the “Executor” and the “Beneficiaries”. We forget that some people may be hearing these words for the first time. They are words that are rarely, if ever, used outside of the context of writing a Will.
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
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:
At LegalWills.ca, we help you to write your Will. We do not get involved in the probate process at all. After you have died, your Will is probated, and your Executor has the responsibility to carry out the instructions in your Will. Sometimes this is where the problems start and estate disputes arise.
This is separate from a challenge to a Will. These are arguments arising while the estate is being managed by the Executor.
We recently spoke to Neil Milton of Ontario-Probate.ca. He specialized in probating of estates and has seen first hand the kinds of problems that can arise, and he also knows how to fix them.
He has kindly prepared this guest article, distilling his knowledge into the most common types of disputes that crop up while the Executor is trying to manage an estate.
Common estate disputes
While there are many causes of estate disputes, formal ‘will challenges’ are actually quite rare.
There are a whole host of grievances that people have which usually fall in to one of the falling categories:
- Debts incurred by the deceased before their death and not paid before death;
- Gifts made by the deceased before their death which reduce the size of their estate;
- Obligations created by statute which must be paid by the estate before any distribution is made to beneficiaries;
- Failure of the estate trustee to act at all;
- Improper actions by the estate trustee; and,
- Allegations that the will itself should be invalid (a ‘will challenge’).
Disputes in these difference categories are often handled by the Courts very differently – some are relatively quick and inexpensive to pursue, others are very complex and expensive. It is very important to get the advice of experience legal counsel to determine whether there is a case and if so how to pursue it.
Online Will writing services have changed the game for Will writing. The traditional barriers of cost and convenience no longer apply. There was a time when a simply Will would cost $600 and take two or three visits to a lawyer. These visits would have to be co-ordinated with a spouse and other family members. Then if the Will needed to be updated, the whole process would have to be endured again.
It is not surprise then that the vast majority of Canadian adults don’t have a Will.
With online Will writing services, the costs have been brought down dramatically, so a Will can now be written for as little as $39.95. And of course the time consuming appointments are a thing of the past – you can just put the kids to bed, put your feet up, pick up your iPad and write your Will.
We now expect more people to be writing their Will, simply because the process is so much more convenient and affordable. Most people who use our service wonder why they left it so long
We are often asked this question from people who have been named as the Executor in a Will. They need to know if they are personally liable for any debts owed and what if there is not enough in the estate to cover them. What happens to your debt when you die?
Our friends at Ratehub have put together this article for us as a guest post.
Debt is a part of life, and most Canadians are carrying around a significant amount, be it through credit cards, mortgages, and other lines of credit. With so many of us relying on credit, it’s no surprise that people often die with outstanding debts left unpaid.
It’s not always easy to talk about, but it’s important to make a plan for your debt ahead of time. Here’s a primer on what happens to debt when you die in Canada, which can help you get started.
Explanation of the answers
This was a tough quiz covering estate planning in Canada. In this article we will provide you with some explanations for our answers.
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.
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.
Introduction to Preparing a Will
Everybody should have a Will. Not making a Will is unfair to those you leave behind. Even if your plans for estate distribution are simple and you do not have many assets, it is still much easier for the people that you leave behind to work with a Will than to resolve the estate of a person who has died intestate (without a Will). If you do not feel that you have significant assets now, remember that your Will only comes into effect when you die, not now, and you cannot possibly predict how large your estate will be when your Will is required. Preparing a Will is one of the most important tasks you can undertake if you have loved ones. Sadly, most of us put it off until it is too late.
By law, any competent adult can make their own legal Will; the law does not require you to have an attorney or a lawyer, to do this. A Will does not need to be a complicated document; it simply has to clearly state your wishes for the distribution of your estate.
Must my Will go through probate?
To understand whether or not your Will needs to go through the probate process, you have to understand what happens after you have died.
Hopefully you have written a Last Will and Testament.
In your Will you name an Executor. This is the person that you entrust to gather and secure your assets. Your Executor then has to distribute the assets according to the instructions in your Will.
The Executor must collect up everything you own, keep it safe and secure until everything has been collected, and then pass these possessions and financial assets to your beneficiaries.
Let us imagine a scenario.
Imagine your Executor going to your bank and presenting them with the Will. They explain to the bank that you have died and they show your Will to the cashier. The Will names your Executor. The person you have named shows their ID and they request the contents of the bank account. This person could even be one of your own children. Continue reading
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.
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
There have probably been a number of situations in your life when you have thought, “I should be preparing a Last Will and Testament.” And for some reason or another you have never actually taken the steps needed to update or create your Will. Don’t feel too embarrassed, because you are certainly not alone. In 2016 only 38 per cent of Canadian adults had signed a legally valid Will. Of those that did, one third were out of date.
Even if the data was restricted to Canadians over the age of 35, only 38 percent of those polled had a legal, up-to-date Will.
Canadian adults with a Last Will and Testament
Canadian adults over the age of 35 with a legal Last Will and Testament
This leaves a lot of people legally unprepared and their families unprotected or provided for.
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;
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
It is that time of year again. The time when we all make New Year’s Resolutions for things that we know we really ought to do, but never quite get around to. We all know the popular ones. Go to the gym, lose weight, spend more time with our family. However, there is one New Year’s Resolution that we should all make sure that we keep. Have you made a Will? We should prioritize “making a Will“. Before you head to the gym and pay to join again, make sure that you protect your family and loved ones by writing a Will.
So many people do not make a Will, but really there is no excuse not to. It is one of the most important things that you should do to make sure that your family and friends are provided for in the event of your death. Continue reading
What Happens to Your Facebook Account When You Die?
When we are making a Will, we know that we must think about our personal assets such as our house, money and possessions. However, have you ever stopped to think about what would happen to your social media accounts? Facebook has almost 1.8 billion users. You are most likely one of them. Have you thought about what happens to your Facebook account when you die? Even though many of us spend a great deal of time on Facebook, most people simply don’t think about what will happen to the account after they have died.
Facebook now gives you a number of options about what should happen to your account when you pass away. It is one of the most helpful of the social media networks in clarifying your choices. There are three choices you can make about what happens to your Facebook account when you die. You can simply delete the account, memorialize it or download the contents and then delete it. Just take some time to think about which option is the best for you. Once you have made your choice, Facebook has made it very easy for people to carry out their wishes. Continue reading
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.
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.
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
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
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.