An Overview of Wills

A will is a legal document that is signed in accordance with specific rules. Without a will in place, someone will have to settle your estate with no guidance from you. Having a will in place prior to your death won't be of any benefit to you but your family will certainly appreciate it!

Many people are reluctant to have a will drawn up for one or more of the following reasons:

  • They are reluctant to think about their own mortality
  • They don’t know who to appoint to act for them
  • They don’t know who to choose as guardians for their children

Creating Your Will

A good place to start before you create a will is with our Will Planning Questionnaire. Use this worksheet to help you determine the duties of your executor, distribution of your assets and other pertinent information.

Once you create your will, it should be kept in a lawyer’s safe or in a safety deposit box, which can be a bit of a quandary at times. Nobody can go into the deceased’s safety deposit box except for the executor, but you may not know who the executor is until you open the box and read the will.

If this is the case, you may need to make an appointment at the bank and take a copy of the death certificate with you. Once the box is opened, the bank staff may keep the contents confidential until a copy of the will is retrieved and the name of the executor has been verified.

Without a will in place, someone will have to settle your estate with no guidance from you.

Did You Know?

Creating a will is not always a straight-forward matter. There are some details that you may want to consider, such as the following.

Wills and Marriage

Marriage may or may not revoke a will, depending on the province or territory in which you live. Divorce does not revoke a will, but clauses in your will pertaining to your ex-spouse may become void. Upon divorce or separation, it’s usually advisable to make a new will.

Assignments of Power

The powers you grant under an enduring power of attorney should not be in conflict with the provisions of your will or any other instructional documents. Any assignments of authority you may wish to give, and other important instructions you may have, should be made part of your will.

Wills and Beneficiaries

  • Consider adding an alternate beneficiary to a specific bequest, in case the person named dies before you. A holographic “handwritten” will may be valid in your province.
  • Accounts, where you name a beneficiary (such as an RRSP), pass directly to that person, although if it is not given to a spouse, the financial institution may demand to see a probated will before releasing the money.
  • Life insurance and pension plans also allow you to name a beneficiary and transfer assets outside of the estate.

Don’t leave the will at home or in the office. One copy should be retained by you, and if appropriate, another given to your executor. Write on the copy where the original signed will is kept and tell your executor where it is. Where available, take advantage of placing your will in your province’s will registry.