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.
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.
At LegalWills.ca we have provided an online option for preparing estate planning documents since 2001. This gives our company a unique insight into industry trends and allows us to explore the triggers for writing a Will. But in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the last 12 months has been a truly unique experience for us.
Will writing is traditionally one of those tasks that you just don’t get around to. The statistics bear this out, with our own survey showing that around two thirds of Canadian adults do not have their Will in place. Most of these people know that it’s important to write a Will, but it’s a task that is put off until next week, next month or next year.
However, in 2020 and 2021, something very dramatic happened. LegalWills.ca saw an incredible spike in the number of people writing their Will. There was a lot happening around the World, but the obvious conclusion was that the COVID-19 pandemic nudged people to finally get their Will in place.
At LegalWills.ca we felt that the sudden surge in Will writing was fascinating, and we wanted to take a deep dive into the motivation for writing a Will. We are fortunate to have a large pool of customers who we can ask the simple question, “Why did you decide to write your Will?”
Why do people usually write their Will?
If you have young children, it is critical to write a Will. The challenge of course is that you are busy, and co-ordinating time with a lawyer, and perhaps your partner is very difficult. So difficult, that this is a task that is unlikely to make it to the top of the To Do list for today, or even this week.
Fortunately online services like the Will writing service at LegalWills.ca makes the process much most convenient and of course significantly more affordable than preparing a Will with a lawyer.
This article gives an overview of why a Will is critical, what you can do within a Will, specifically if you have children, and how you can prepare a Will in a cost effective and convenient way. We also discuss why and how you can update a Will if circumstances change.
What are the key elements in a Will?
You probably think of a Will as a document that describes the distribution of your assets (possessions) after you have passed away. This is, of course, a significant part of a Will, and one of the most important reasons for preparing one.
Do you have a Will already? you just need to make a slight change to it? Perhaps you had a lawyer prepare your Will for several hundreds of dollars you don’t want that money to go to waste, but now you need to update it. After doing some research, you have determined that a codicil is what you need.
Let us explain exactly what a codicil is, and why it’s probably not the solution you are looking for.
The origins of a Codicil
The first step in understanding the role of a codicil is to look at the history of the law related to Wills. In Canada, Estate planning laws were based on the UK Wills Act (except for the Province of Quebec). This law was written in 1837, and surprisingly, not too much has changed in the last 180 plus years.
In 1837, if you wanted to write a Will it would have looked like this
Imagine, a week after you had gone to the trouble of having your Will prepared, you wanted to make a change. The Will writer wouldn’t have wanted to rewrite the whole document, so the Wills Act made a provision for a codicil. It’s a “middle English” word meaning “little codex”, or according to Mirriam-Webster “a little bit of writing on a small piece of writing material, used to add to or change something about a larger piece of writing.”
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.
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.
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
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;
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.
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.
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