4. Decide who gets what

What do I need to think about when making a will?
This question has an answer and 5 steps

4. Decide who gets what

Before your beneficiaries can get anything, your funeral expenses, taxes, and debts have to be paid. Your debts include things like income taxes you owe, mortgages, lines of credit, credit card payments, and car loans. In some cases, this might mean your beneficiaries get less than what you planned or even nothing.

The most common ways to give property in a will are as:

Specific bequests and legacies

A specific bequest is when you leave a beneficiary a particular item, such as a car, piece of jewellery, or a specific bank account. A legacy is when you leave a beneficiary a specific amount of money.

After paying your funeral expenses, taxes and debts, specific bequests are given out first, followed by legacies.


The residue is the part of your estate that's left after funeral expenses, taxes, debts, specific bequests, and legacies are paid, as well as your estate trustee's fees. This can include:

  • property that was not left to any beneficiary
  • specific bequests and legacies that were not given to a beneficiary because the beneficiary died before you

You can leave the whole residue to one person or you can divide it between 2 or more people.

Other ways to deal with property

Making a will is not the only way to decide what happens to your property. For example, you can also:

  • give gifts to people and organizations while you're alive
  • have a designated beneficiary on investments such as a life insurance policy, benefits plan, and registered plans such as a registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) or tax-free savings account (TFSA)
  • own property with someone else jointly

These other ways of dealing with your property to help reduce the estate administration tax, also called probate fees, that is paid to the Ontario government. The less property you have in your estate when you die, the lower your probate fees.

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Reviewed: October 31, 2019

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