3. Make lists of who and what to include in your will

What do I need to think about when making a will?
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3. Make lists of who and what to include in your will

Before you write your will, it's a good idea to make a list of who you want to include in your will, and a list of your assets and debts.

List beneficiaries

Make a list of any family members, friends, and other people you would like to leave something to. Include their legal name and address if possible. For example, you might want to leave property to:

  • a married or common-law spouse
  • your children
  • other family members like a grandchild, niece, or nephew
  • non-relatives like a friend or neighbour
  • organizations such as charities

The people and organizations you leave your property to are called your beneficiaries.

You also need to think about what you'd like to happen if a beneficiary dies before you do. You have to decide if the property you left that person goes to their children, to someone else, or back into your estate.

Who you should leave something to

If possible, you should leave enough to financially support your dependants. A dependant is a person you were supporting financially before you died or a person the law says you must support.

A dependant can be your married or common-law partner, ex-spouse, child, stepchild, grandchild, parent, grandparent, brother, or sister.

If you don't leave enough for your dependants, they can go to court and make a dependant support claim against your estate.

List your assets and debts

Make a list of all your property, for example:

  • real property such as cash or money in bank accounts
  • investments such as registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) or tax-free savings accounts (TFSA)
  • life insurance policies
  • personal property such as:
    • cars or trucks
    • clothing
    • jewellery
    • all collections, for example, coin, cards, and art work
    • furniture and other household items
  • online assets such as PayPal, eBay, and loyalty reward programs like Aeroplan miles
  • pets

Your debts include things like income taxes you owe, mortgages, lines of credit, credit card payments, and car loans. If you rent, your estate trustee will need to know how to contact your landlord, when your rent is due, and whether you paid a deposit for your last month's rent.

Pets

The law says that pets and other animals are personal property.

Your will can tell your estate trustee to sell your pet. Money from selling the pet becomes part of your estate.

Or, you might give your pet to someone in your will. Some people also leave that person something more to thank them or to help with the expenses of taking care of the pet. It's a good idea to ask the person if they're willing to care for your pet before you put this in your will.

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Reviewed: October 31, 2019

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