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What do I need to think about when making a will?

What do I need to think about when making a will?
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Reviewed: 
October 31, 2019
Answer

Once you decide to make a will, think about:

  • your estate trustee, who is the person you trust to carry out the directions in your will
  • your beneficiaries, who are the people and organizations you want to leave your property to
  • who will care for your children under the age of 18
  • who will manage the property you left for your children under the age of 18
  • who you want to give specific property, like jewellery or a car, that may be valuable or have sentimental value to you
  • what you want to happen at your funeral

If you have a spouse, you cannot make one will for both of you. You must each make your own will.

Who can make a will

To make a will you must be mentally capable. This means that you understand:

  • why you're making a will
  • how much property you have
  • which of your dependants should be included as beneficiaries

Your will may be challenged if you make it when you're not mentally capable or if you don't include dependants. A dependant is a person you were supporting financially before you died or a person the law says you must support.

You must also be at least 18 years old to make a will. But you can be younger than 18, if you're:

  • legally married,
  • a member of the Canadian armed forces, or
  • a sailor

Get legal help

It's possible to make a will yourself. But it's usually a good idea to talk to an estates lawyer before making one. A lawyer can make sure you follow all the rules for making a will and help you make an estate plan than meets your needs.

For example, a lawyer can tell you how to reduce probate fees, if there are any dependants you should include in your will, and what happens if a beneficiary dies before you do.

If you have a low income, you may be able to get help from the Wills Clinic at The 519  or the Queen's University Elder Law Clinic. You can also call your local community legal clinic to see if they help with wills. If you have a simple estate, there are services such as Axess Law, that provide legal services at lower rates. 

If you have a large or complicated estate, it might be a good idea to talk to a financial advisor as well an estates lawyer.

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