Probate in Canada – What it is, what it costs, how to reduce fees.

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

Making a Will in Canada – the Complete Guide to your Options

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.

Your Executor

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

The specific grounds to challenge a Will in Canada

How to Contest or Challenge a Will

For many of us the loss of a family member is a very upsetting and stressful time, and we are not always thinking clearly during this emotional state. As a result, there are often times when an estate is distributed but some beneficiaries feel that it has not been done in accordance with the Will or that they have still missed out in some way. This isn’t uncommon and as any estate lawyer will tell you, a large part of their work involves resolving estate disputes between family members and other beneficiaries.

But if you are tempted to challenge a Will, be aware that there are specific reasons why you can challenge a Will. Although you may feel cheated, this may not alone be sufficient grounds for contesting a Will.

Some General Considerations

If you believe that you have not received a sufficient benefit under a Will and you fit certain criteria, you may be able to challenge a Will. Contesting a Will means applying to the court to have the Will, or parts of the Will, deemed invalid. While there may be a good reason you were left out, there may also be other possibilities.

Since contesting a Will is expensive and time-consuming, it is a good idea to get legal advice before you proceed. In addition, contesting a Will requires formal steps and procedures, and will only be successful if you can provide evidence to support your claim. Because the maker of the Will is deceased, any statements that you allege the deceased said, must be corroborated or confirmed by a witness. Depending on the jurisdiction, you may have to go to mediation and try to resolve the issues.  If the case is not settled at mediation, it will then go to trial.
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Write a Will in Canada: the complete guide to our Canadian Legal Wills

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;

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

The Affidavit of Execution and signing your Will. What makes a Will legal?

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

Your Executor – the most important appointment of your life

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.

Your Executor

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

Number of Canadians without Wills significantly under-reported

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

Digital assets in your Last Will and Testament – you need a plan.

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

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

Six consequences of dying intestate in Canada

Dying intestate means that you have died without a Will.

dying intestate

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

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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Customer question of the day – updating a Will

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;

Updating a Will Continue reading

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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Planned Giving: the state of charitable bequests in Canada

“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

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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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

Why we don’t support Québec Wills

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.

Quebec Wills

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.

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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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