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Making A Will In Canada A Complete Guide

Making a Will in Canada: A Complete Guide

Making a will is one of the most important steps you can take to protect your loved ones and your property.  It can provide for your children’s care if you die while they’re still minors.

It is legal for Canadians to write their own will even without a lawyer.However, it’s important to know that it must be prepared and signed properly in order for it to be legally binding in the eyes of the law. 

Those who are undertaking this process must also keep in mind that although it’s possible to write an own will without a lawyer, there could still be some complex legal matters involved depending on individual circumstances. 

Read on to know the basics and importance of writing a will so you can make a will that’s tailored to your specific needs.

The Will: Why is it Important?

The Will Why is it Important's Homepage

A will is a legal document that lays out your wishes for what should happen to your property and assets after you die. 

It’s an important document because it ensures that your loved ones will be taken care of in the way that you want, and it can also help to avoid disputes among them after your death.

Making a will is the best way to ensure that your wishes are carried out, and it’s something that everyone should do. If you don’t have a will, the law will dictate how your property is divided, and this may not be what you would have wanted.

There are many things to consider when making a will, such as who should inherit your property and how you want your funeral arrangements handled. 

Checklist When Making a Will

  1. Gather and review all the necessary documents you need to include in your Will.
  2. The following are the list of key documents such as:
  • Birth, death, marriage or divorce papers.
  • Your deeds and mortgages.
  • Every bank account number you have.
  • Investment portfolio account numbers.
  • Insurance policy numbers.
  • Funeral plans and burial lot information.

3. The list of your advisors (if any) such as:

  • Bank Personnel
  • Lawyer
  • Accountant
  • Investment dealer/s
  • Insurance agent

4. Lastly, you have to ensure that every member of your family as well as your executor have the idea where all your documents are stored.

How to Make a Valid Will Without a Lawyer

How to Make a Valid Will Without a Lawyer's Homepage

In order to make a valid will in Canada, you must meet the legal requirements set out by the provincial legislation. In general, these requirements are:

  • You must be 18 years or older.
  • You must be of sound mind and capable of making a will.
  • Your will must be in writing.
  • Your will must be signed by you and by two witnesses who are also over 18 years of age and of sound mind.

The next step is to gather all of the information you will need to make your will. This includes the full name and current address of every beneficiary, as well as the full name and address of every executor you choose. 

If you have any specific wishes regarding your estate, you will also need to include them in your will. Once you have all of this information, you can start writing your will. 

The format for a will can vary, but it is typically best to keep it simple. Make sure to include your name, the date, the executor’s name, beneficiaries and your sign.

Writing a Will without a Lawyer
AdvantagesDisadvantages
• It’s much cheaper to make a will without a lawyer.

• It’s faster and easier to make a will without a lawyer.

• You can have more control over your will when you make it yourself.
• It’s more difficult to make a valid will without a lawyer.

•If there are any problems with your will, they may not be resolved without a lawyer.

•You may not have as much protection from inheritance and estate taxes without a lawyer.

What to Include in a Canadian Will

If you’re ready to create or update your will, there are a few key elements that must be included. First, you need to name an executor to make sure your instructions will be carried out accordingly.

Next, you’ll want to list all of your assets like bank accounts and real estate. Be sure to include details such as account numbers and addresses for each piece of property or asset. 

You’ll also need to list the beneficiaries who will receive what you have outlined in your will. Lastly, make sure to sign and date your will in front of two witnesses so it is legally binding.

1. Beneficiaries

Beneficiaries' Homepage

When considering beneficiaries for your Will, take the time to list out all of your assets – both tangible and intangible. From there, consider who would benefit from getting each one. 

Think about family members, friends, charities or organizations you believe in. Once you have decided who can benefit from your estate and in what manner, it’s time for the next step: naming them as a beneficiary or beneficiaries in your Will.

It is important to be specific when naming beneficiaries so that there is no confusion or disputes among those involved. Make sure that you include their full name and make note of any special conditions. 

Keep in mind that if any of the people you have named have since passed away, they cannot be listed as recipients in the Will and must be replaced with a contingent beneficiary or charity.

1. Spouse as A Beneficiary

Spouse as A Beneficiary's Homepage

Leaving your loved ones behind is never easy, but it’s something that we all have to face at some point. If you’re thinking about making a will in Canada, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is who you want to leave your property and assets to.

In most cases, the spouse is the obvious choice as the beneficiary. They’re the person who you’ve shared your life with, and they’re the one who will be most affected by your death. 

But this isn’t always the case. You may want to leave your property and assets to someone else—perhaps a child or a sibling.

Whatever your decision, it’s important to make sure that your will reflects your wishes. This is why it’s so important to have a lawyer help you draft your will as they’ll ensure that everything is in order, and that your loved ones will be taken care of after you’re gone.

2. Family or Friends as A Beneficiary

Family or Friends as A Beneficiary's Homepage

If you’re thinking of making a will, you might be wondering who should be your beneficiary. Family members or friends are common choices, but there are a few things to keep in mind before you make your decision.

If you choose a friend as your beneficiary, make sure you trust them implicitly. They’ll be in charge of carrying out your wishes and distributing your estate, so you need to be confident that they’ll do what you want them to.

Family members can be a good choice, especially if you want to leave something to each of your children. But remember that they won’t have the same level of discretion as a friend would when it comes to carrying out your wishes.

3. Charity as A Beneficiary

Charity as A Beneficiary's Homepage

Do you want to leave a legacy of giving? Consider making a charity the beneficiary of your will. When leaving a bequest to charity, you can donate to any registered Canadian charity or foundation.

It’s important to ensure that the charity or foundation is registered with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). It’s also important to include their full name and registration number in your will and any correspondence with them.

When making a bequest to charity, you can opt for cash, specific property, or leave a percentage of your estate—whichever works best for you. 

Not only can this have tax benefits for your estate, but it also gives you the chance to help causes close to your heart long after you are gone.

4. Government as a Beneficiary

Government as a Beneficiary's Homepage

In Canada, if the deceased does not have a valid will in place, their estate will be distributed according to the laws of intestacy of their province. This means that the government may become a beneficiary – and this is something you want to avoid.

When you make your will, you can also elect a guardian for your children if you have any minor children who are not 18 years of age at the time of your death. You also have the freedom to list gifts or donations to any charities or organizations that are important to you. 

This means that your wishes will be carried out and your loved ones and causes that matter to you will benefit from your hard-earned money.

Preparing an up-to-date will is ideal for everyone – it’s easy, far cheaper than litigation and gives you a chance to decide who should benefit from an inheritance.

2. Guardians 

Guardians' Homepage

If you have kids, it’s important to make a will so that you can specify who should take care of them in the event of your passing. You can also provide financial resources to help with their care, and name a guardian who will be legally responsible for them until they reach adulthood.

Available Financial Resources
TypeDescription
Trust in a WillA trust is an arrangement where one or more trustees hold assets for the benefit of a specific beneficiary or group of beneficiaries. 
This ensures that the money will be handled properly in the event that you are no longer alive to manage it yourself. 
Savings BondsThis is the investment in which you loan money to the government and they pay you back with interest over time.
InsuranceThis can be set up using a designated beneficiary – meaning that if something happens to you, your guardian will receive a certain amount of money so they can take care of your child’s financial needs.

NOTE: No matter what resources you choose, it’s important that you make sure these are included in your wills so your child’s guardians have enough money to care for them should anything happen to you.

It’s important to carefully consider who you name as guardian, since they’ll be responsible for overseeing your children’s upbringing, welfare and education. 

Keep in mind that while the court will usually respect your wishes, they may choose someone else if they feel like it’s in the best interests of the child.

To ensure that the court carries out your wishes, it is advised that you state a preference as to who should serve as guardian – preferably someone living in close proximity to your children and someone whose lifestyle aligns with values similar to yours.

3. Executors

Executors' Homepage

When making your will, you will also have to choose an executor. This is the person who carries out your wishes and makes sure your wishes are fulfilled after you pass away. 

It’s important to choose someone who is detail-oriented and can deal with a lot of paperwork. An executor must manage the estate according to the probate laws of Canada and pay all of the debts owed by the deceased. 

Tips on Choosing the Executor of Your Will

  1. You can choose someone you trust such as a friend or one of your relatives to be your executor.
  2. An executor will manage all your estate and important documents so make sure that you choose someone who is responsible, organized and can fully commit to you.
  3. Make sure that you choose someone who can handle stressful situations since there many potential problems may arise like complicated estate or a family dispute.
  4. You may also choose to hire a corporate executor if you have a more complex state.

The chosen executor will also distribute any remaining assets in accordance with the will’s instructions. 

It’s important to make sure that the executor understands their responsibilities in this role, as they can be held accountable for any mistakes or mismanagement of assets.

To ensure that your executor has the necessary experience, talk to them before formally appointing them in your Will. A good executor should be trustworthy, organized, and patient — all important qualities when it comes to managing an estate under probate law!

​4. Digital Assets & Online Estate Planning

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Estate planning is the process of creating a will, and protecting your digital assets like online accounts or cryptocurrencies. While it’s important to include a clause addressing these types of assets in your will, it’s also important to protect them while you’re alive.

For example, you can adjust the permissions settings on your social media accounts so that someone else can access the accounts after you pass away. Ensure that the settings are updated regularly too. 

You should also set up some form of two-factor authentication for all of your online accounts so that nobody else can access them without your consent. It’s also advisable to update passwords and create backups for important documents on your computer. 

This way, you reduce the risk of someone accessing those documents without authorization. In short, taking control of your digital assets now will save potential headaches from arising in the future!

NOTE: Once these steps are complete, you’ll need to store it in a safe place like a safety deposit box with a copy given to the executor as well as a trusted family member or friend. 
It’s important that someone else knows where it is and can access it when needed.

​Common Mistakes People Make When Writing a Will

Common Mistakes People Make When Writing a Will's Homepage

When it comes to writing a will, there are a few common mistakes people make:

  • Not seeing the importance of having a will.
  • Not seeking legal help.
  • Not updating their will when their life changes.
  • Refusing to share intentions and wishes with the guardian of your children.
  • Neither the will’s date nor the signatures of two witnesses are present.
  • Failing to keep and store the will.

Making a will is one of the most important things you can do for your loved ones. It ensures that your wishes are carried out after you die, and that your estate is distributed in the way you want.

If you’re not sure how to write a will, or you want to make sure yours is done correctly, it’s best to consult a lawyer. They can help you navigate the complex legal system and make sure your will is legally binding.

It’s also important to update your will whenever there are major changes in your life, such as getting married, divorced or having children.

Signing and Finalizing a Canadian Will

Signing and Finalizing a Canadian Will's Homepage

The last step in the process is signing and finalizing your Canadian Will. In order for it to be legally binding, a Will must be in writing and signed in the presence of at least two witnesses. 

You must also be 18 years of age or older, as well as mentally sound to make a Will. After you and your witnesses have signed your Will, you should get it notarized. 

This will certify that all the information provided is accurate and up-to-date. This is especially important if the document contains complex legal terms that may require additional explanation.

Finally, you should make sure to keep your original signed document in a safe place, such as a safety deposit box or with a lawyer or family member you trust. That way, if there are any changes to make in the future, you can easily update it.

How to Store and Protect a Will

How to Store and Protect a Will's Homepage

Protecting and storing a will is an important step once the will is written. This can vary from province to province, but generally it’s recommended that you keep a copy for yourself, and to your executor, who will be responsible for looking after the will.

You should also provide copies to your beneficiaries as well – they have the right to see the contents of your will if desired. The original copy of the Will must be stored somewhere safe such as having a legacy drawer

Other than that, you might consider hiring a lawyer to store the original document, as they have secured filing systems and experience safely storing important documents.

No matter where you decide to keep it, make sure that your will is in a secure location that can be easily accessed when needed. The last thing anyone wants is for it to get lost or destroyed!

All About the Legacy Drawer
What is a legacy drawer?A legacy drawer is where you should store all of your personal and family data so that it can be quickly found in the event that one of you passes away or becomes incapacitated.
Why should I have a legacy drawer?To make it simple for your loved ones to locate your important documents after your passing, creating a legacy drawer is of the utmost significance.
In addition to dealing with the additional strain of preparing your funeral, your family members will be grieving your passing. 
By making it difficult for them to locate your will, estate plan, insurance information, or other crucial documents, you are only adding to their hardship.
What do I put inside my legacy drawer?• Cover Letter
• Will, Trusts, & Estate Plan
• Insurance Information
• Financial Information
• Letters to Loved Ones
• Important Passwords
• Tax Returns
• Funeral Instructions Other Legal Documents
Where should I keep my legacy drawer?You should pick a location that is easy to find and accessible to everyone in your family who has your consent. A  filing cabinet or office drawer are recommended or any drawer which you can lock, if possible.

How to Change or Revoke a Will

How to Change or Revoke a Will's Homepage

If you decide you would like to change or revoke your Will, you have a few options. Most provinces in Canada allow for changes in an existing Will by way of an official document called a “codicil”. 

This document is often used to make small changes to a Will, like updating your beneficiaries, changing the executor, revising end of life wishes, or adding a new piece of property.

How to Create a Codicil

  1. Read through the Will and note the changes made.
  2. Write an opening statement which includes your name, address, declaration that you’re of sound mind, and the date in which you are putting into effect the codicil.
  3. Identify the specific article number in your Will that you want amended or removed.
  4. Sign it in the presence of at least two unbiased witnesses.Store the updated Will in a legacy drawer.

If the changes are more substantial, the best course of action might be to revoke your existing Will and create a new one. 

To do this, you can create and execute a document called a “revocation deed”. This will officially void your previous Will and make your new one the valid legal document. 

Most importantly, make sure that you fully cross out the old version before signing and executing the revocation deed.

How to Revoke a Will

  1. Destroying the old will.
  2. Creating a new will.
  3. Making changes to an existing will.
  4. Get professional legal help revoking your Will.

NOTE: Before making any major changes to your existing Will, it’s important to speak with a lawyer or financial advisor to ensure that everything is done in accordance with the law and that there are no unintended legal consequences.

How to Execute a Will in Canada

How to Execute a Will in Canada's Homepage

Executing a Will in Canada can be a bit of a process, but it’s certainly worth it in the long run. Before you get started, there are a few important steps you should take to make sure your Will is legally binding.

  • To begin with, your Will should include your name, address, and date of birth. 
  • You will also need to include details about how your assets will be distributed upon your death. 
  • Your Will must be signed by two witnesses who are present at the same time and who also sign the document.

It is also highly recommended that you keep copies of the Will with family or friends so they can access them if needed.

Finally, make sure that you update your Will on a regular basis to account for any changes in life circumstances or changes in laws that may have an effect on how your assets are distributed upon death.

Alternatives to Writing Your Own Will

Alternatives to Writing Your Own Will's Homepage

Making your own will may not be the best option for you. There are a variety of alternative ways to create a legally binding will in Canada. One such option is to use an off-the-shelf will kit, which can be purchased from stationary stores or legal offices. 

These kits provide you with the necessary forms needed for a will, and instructions on how to fill them out correctly. You should be aware that off-the-shelf kits may not address your particular circumstances, so check with a lawyer first before signing it into effect.

Another alternative is to obtain legal advice and document preparation services from a lawyer that specializes in wills and estates. A lawyer can help you customize your will according to your wishes and ensure that the document meets all of the requirements in Canadian law. 

This is usually more expensive than drafting your own will, but it can provide peace of mind knowing that the document has been professionally prepared and reviewed by an experienced lawyer.

Wrapping It Up

When it comes to making a will, there are a few things you need to know.

First of all, it is legal to write a will in Canada without a lawyer. However, you should be aware that there are some risks associated with doing so.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to have a will in order to leave property to your loved ones. There are other ways to do this, such as through a trust.

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that a will is not a substitute for estate planning. There are a number of other documents that you may need to create in order to make sure your estate is handled properly.

FAQs on Making a Will in Canada

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