A Guide to Making a will in Canada
1) The Importance of a Will
A will or testament is a document that clarifies a person’s final wishes upon their death.
The will itself has limited utility while you are alive. However, once you pass away, a will serves two important purposes:
- It enables you to appoint specific people as the executor of the will, the beneficiaries, etc.
- It also specifies how your remaining assets will be distributed
Your assets include any money, homes, investments, and other property that you own. A will provides peace of mind that all your assets will be distributed fairly after you pass away.
Writing a will is an important activity for any adult, and you shouldn’t put it off until you are “old” and have more time to do it.
Consider making a will as soon as you become an adult. It is also important to note that a will-making should not be a “once-in-a-lifetime” event. Rather, you should upgrade it often as your current situation changes.
Let’s gets started. The first step is to research the best method of going about will. You can choose the following methods to write your will:
- DIY Will Writing:
To get started, choose a blank piece of paper and two adults as witnesses. With this method, the will is still considered a legal document, but it has several problems that do not make it an ideal choice.
First, you can miss out on filling in several important details in the document (it may be incomplete), especially if you have limited knowledge about will writing.
Second, you may miss out on several “what if” scenarios. Like what if your chosen executor has an accident and is unable to follow your instructions? What if something happens to your appointed beneficiaries?
This makes a DIY Will Writing a sub-par solution.
So, here comes your next option for how to write your will:
2) Getting the help of a Notary (lawyer):
Making a will has traditionally been done in this manner.
You can get legal counsel if you consult a legal advisor to draft your will. This is a great strategy if you have a specific circumstance that require legal advice.
For instance, a unique kind of trust called a “Henson Trust” can be established. This is helpful in case you have a child with special needs who is receiving government assistance.
With such scenarios, it is advised that the preparation and creation of a complex legal document like a will should only be handled by a person with proper legal training. But many people may not need this kind of legal counsel while drafting their wills. So, consulting a lawyer is not always necessary.
Once all of this has been established, you can now move to the next step of making important appointments:
Appointing the Executor
An executor is a person who is chosen for carrying out all the instructions in a person’s will. Once you have written your will, you need to appoint an executor of your choice. This person will be responsible for managing your funeral also your wishes. They will be responsible for securing all your possessions and distributing them according to your instructions.
Since this is an incredibly important role, the person whom you choose as the executor of your will must be someone you can trust. They can be someone from your family or friends, or you can appoint a lawyer. Regardless, they should be completely trustworthy and good at handling all legal details.
Appointing Guardians for Your Children
This is to prepare for another worst-case scenario. If you and your spouse pass away suddenly, for instance, in an accident, then who should look after your children? As painful as it is, it is practical to appoint a guardian for your kids whom you consider appropriate.
In cases where the parents have not mentioned this in their will and they pass away, the court decides who the guardian can be. Sometimes, relatives also offer guardianship, but the court handles this matter then.
So, if you prepare a will, consider adding this important instruction for the benefit of your children. Keep in mind, the circumstances of your appointed guardians may also change with time. Perhaps they no longer remain the ideal candidate for guardianship. That is why it is important to update your will according to the current situation.
Appointing Your Beneficiaries
Beneficiaries are the people who will receive your assets. You can choose who can get what by appointing your beneficiaries in your will.
All the possessions that you own are collectively called your estate. When they are distributed among your appointed beneficiaries, they are called bequests.
You can choose which family members and friends should get which assets. You can also choose which possessions should go to charity or some government programs.
Finally, you can decide the percentage of your estate that you would like to distribute among your children and siblings, and the things that you would like to gift to them, like some vintage object, or jewelry handed down from your grandmother.
Anything that you possess comes under this category.
Now that you have understood the importance of making a will and how to go about it, it is time to understand what happens if you do not make a will.
Regardless of whether you create a legally documented will or not, you should at least have a strategy for how your estate will be divided.
If you have something on your mind, try to write it down in front of some witnesses.
If you pass on this opportunity, you will put your family members and legal heirs in a difficult situation. Your estate will then be distributed according to the laws of your province or territory. These may differ and may be disadvantageous for your successors.
If you pass away without appointing the executor, or guardians for your children or beneficiaries for your assets, it will result in frustration among your family members.
Therefore, it is important to write down a will to avoid all such trouble and protect your final wishes once you pass away.
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