Why do I need a Will and when should I change my Will?

The answer to this question is based largely on both your financial and family situation.

  • A Will is simply a document which tells your loved ones how your property should be distributed upon your death.
  • If you die without a Will, the government assumes control and dictates how your property should be distributed.
  • A Will allows you to choose the person (executor) to look after your affairs upon your death.
  • If you have minor children you can appoint a specific guardian to care for them otherwise Children's Aid and a foster home will do so, while the court decides who best to care for your children.
  • A Will allows you to decide at what age your children will inherit other than at age 18 and if you wish, in stepped amounts, over a period of years. 
  • A Will can ensure that you leave your assets only to your chosen beneficiaries, not their spouses.
  • A Will allows you to tax plan and to avoid paying high estate taxes upon your death.
  • A Will allows you to give specific items to specific people or bequeath an amount to charity for which your estate will receive a full charitable deduction.
  • Blended families add a level of complication which can only be resolved by a properly prepared Will that considers previous families as well as your current family.

What is an Executor?

  • This is the person who, after your death, pays your debts, gathers in your assets and transfers your assets to the people that you have specified in your Will. You should, in most cases choose your spouse as your executor and two more as alternate executors.
  • Your executor must be over the age of 18 and a person you trust to handle your affairs as you would yourself.

Can a Will ever be changed?

  • A Will does not "speak" for you until the date of your death. Thus, you can change it if your circumstances change. Never attempt to change a witnessed Will by striking out some portions and writing in new ones as this invalidates your Will. In order to change your Will please contact your lawyer.

When should a Will be changed?

  • If you change your name, or anyone mentioned in the Will changes theirs.
  • If an executor dies or becomes unsuitable to act due to age, ill-health, etc.
  • If a beneficiary dies.
  • If you have specifically bequeathed any property which you subsequently sell.
  • If you change your marital status by divorce, enter a common-law relationship, re-marry, or adopt.
  • If you move to a new province or country or buy property in a foreign country.
  • If you win a lottery, receive an inheritance, suffer a reversal in wealth by asset growth or decline.
  • If more then five years have passed since you last updated your Will.
  • If you sell your business or retire.

What if I do not have a Will at the time of my death?

  • If you do not have a Will, your property will pass to those persons who are considered your "heirs." This is called "intestate succession." The Estate Court will appoint an administrator to distribute your assets, but this will not be in accordance with your wishes, which you have not expressed but by way of a government legislated distribution.

How do I keep my Will safe?

  • Keep your original Will in a safety deposit box with your other important documents. Please inform your executor of the location of your Will and the name and address of your lawyer. Some lawyers will hold your original Will in their offices for safekeeping.

I believe it is also of crucial importance that you prepare a Continuing Power of Attorney For Property and a Continuing Power of Attorney For Personal Care.

Click here if you would like to read about Continuing Powers of Attorney For Property and Continuing Powers of Attorney For Personal Care.

Click here to complete the Will Checklist necessary to have your Will prepared.

You may also wish to read the article, Structuring an Effective Will and Intestate Succession.

Revised March 2015