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

Setting up a Pet Trust: who cares for your pet after you are gone?

According to a recent survey conducted by BMO Bank of Montreal, 89 percent of Canadians consider their pets to be a member of their family. It stands to reason then that most people would want to ensure that somebody looks after their pet after they are gone. But hardly any Canadians have set up a pet trust to ensure that their pet receives proper care after they are gone.

If you make no provision for your pet as part of your estate plan, your dog or cat could potentially end up at the humane society. In 2015 82,000 cats and 35,000 dogs were taken into Canadian shelters, of which 48 per cent of dogs and 57 per cent of cats were adopted.

A Pet trust is not just for the wealthy

Whenever there is mention of a pet trust in the news, it is usually because of an extreme bequest, or staggering wealth of the pet owner. We saw is with Leona Helmsley who in 2008 left $12 Million to her pet Maltese. Continue reading

Have you “Made a Will”? Make it your New Year’s Resolution.

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.

Making 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

Guardian for your children – How to name a guardian in your Will.

How to Choose a Guardian for Your Children

One of the most important things which you need to consider when you are making your Will is how to choose a guardian. They will take care of your minor children in the event of your death. This really isn’t something that anyone ever wants to think about, but it is one of the most important decisions that you need to make. No one likes to think of their own mortality. However, making a Will and appointing a guardian is one of the most caring things that you can do for your minor children.

If you do not choose a guardian for your children and both parents die, the court will have to appoint one. This will usually be a willing volunteer. However, you really don’t want to leave something so incredibly important to chance. A judge can appoint whoever they want to. This person could be your worst nightmare, but a judge may have of way of knowing that if you haven’t made your wishes clear. 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

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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

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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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