INTRODUCTIONThis section covers common questions, choosing a legal advisor and executor, and registering, updating and storing your will.
Making a will is an important part of life
It gives you the opportunity to leave instructions on how your estate will provide for your loved ones. It also gives you the opportunity to support the causes that are important to you and in so doing, have a lasting impact on the type of world you would like to pass on to future generations. It ensures your compassion for others can live on.
Writing your will is not the daunting task you think it may be. Making a will is a responsible step that everyone should take. It provides you with a sense of security knowing that your affairs are in order and the people and things you value have been taken care of.
For your peace of mind today and your family’s peace of mind tomorrow, making a will is an easy, inexpensive solution.
What is a Will?
A will is a legal document that leaves instructions about what you want done with everything you own after your death. What you own when you die is called your ‘estate’. If you own anything at all, you have an estate.
A will names an executor, the individual or institution that will act on your behalf and carry out your wishes.
In your will you can name guardians for your minor children and leave instructions for your funeral and burial. To be valid, a will must be in writing — typed or handwritten — signed, dated and witnessed properly by two people.
What are the Requirements for Making a Will?
• You need to be an adult. (Age of majority varies by province. In BC, it is 19 years old.)
• You need to be mentally capable of managing your own affairs.
• You need to agree with the contents of the will at the time you make it.
Do I Need a Will if my Estate is Small?
Yes. You may not consider yourself to be wealthy, but when you add everything up, you may find that you have more than you realize, particularly if you own your own home. All your possessions count towards the value of your estate, including your pension, jewellery, furniture, shares, etc. And, if your estate is small, it is even more important that it be settled in a straightforward manner, as delays and complications usually mean increased expenses which will reduce the size of your estate.
What Happens if I Die Without a Will?
A high percentage of Canadians die intestate (without a will). In these cases, the courts determine who becomes the legal administrator of your estate and your assets are usually distributed among family members in accordance with provincial legislation. No matter what you may have verbally indicated, if you have no will, or if your will is invalid, your estate is unlikely to be distributed according to your exact wishes.
Can my Will be Contested?
It is always best to talk with your family about your plans. Simply having an open discussion and expressing your wishes to your loved ones ahead of time can help. It is a good opportunity to speak to them about your values, and, if you decide to leave significant gifts to charity in your will, it is a chance to explain why you are doing this.
If you are in a situation where you want to give to a charity and avoid legal challenges from family members, then you may want to consider a gift of life insurance or making the charity a direct beneficiary of a RRSP or RRIF.