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What To Know When Making A Will In Ontario

What to Know When Making a Will in Ontario

No one likes to think about their mortality, but planning for the future and ensuring that your loved ones are taken care of is essential. One critical component of estate planning is creating a will, which is a crucial, legal document that preserves your wishes after your death. This usually outlines important aspects such as the distribution of your property and assets, as well as the care provided for your minor children.

In Ontario, there are specific requirements that must be met to ensure your will is valid and enforceable. This post will provide an overview of the essential elements you need to know when making a will in Ontario.

1. Determine Your Assets

Before you begin working on your will, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of your assets, including property, investments, and personal belongings. This information will help you decide how you want to distribute your estate among your beneficiaries. Be sure to consider any joint property, as this may automatically pass to the surviving joint tenant, rather than being distributed according to your will.

2. Understand the Legal Requirements for a Valid Will

In Ontario, the Succession Law Reform Act (SLRA) governs the formal requirements for a valid will. According to the SLRA, a will must be:

  • In writing: The will must be in written form, either typed or handwritten.
  • Signed: The will must be signed by the testator (the person making the will) at the end of the document.
  • Witnessed: The signing of the will must be witnessed by two individuals who are not assigned as beneficiaries of the will, and they must also sign the will in the presence of the testator.

It’s essential to comply with these requirements, as failure to do so could render the will invalid.

3. Choose Your Beneficiaries

A beneficiary is an individual or organization that will receive a portion of your estate as specified in your will. You can name anyone as a beneficiary, including family members, friends, or charitable organizations. When selecting your beneficiaries, consider your relationship with the individual or organization and how you want your assets to be used by them.

4. Appoint an Executor

An executor is responsible for administering your estate after your death. They are in charge of carrying out your wishes as outlined in your will, including the distribution of your assets and the payment of any debts or taxes. Choose someone trustworthy and capable of handling the tasks involved in estate administration, such as a close friend, family member, or legal professional.

5. Name a Guardian for Minor Children

If you have minor children, it’s essential to appoint a guardian in your will. A guardian is the person responsible for your children’s care and upbringing should both parents pass away before the children reach the age of majority. Choose someone you trust to raise your children according to your values and wishes.

6. Drafting Your Will

In Ontario, a will must be in writing to be legally valid. While it is possible to create a handwritten or “holograph” will, it is generally recommended to have your will professionally drafted by a lawyer or notary public. This ensures that your will meets all legal requirements and reduces the risk of challenges or disputes after your death.

7. Signing and Witnessing

To be legally valid in Ontario, a will must be signed by the testator (the person making the will) and witnessed by two individuals who are not beneficiaries or the spouse of the testator. The witnesses must be present when the testator signs the will and must sign the will themselves in the presence of the testator. It is essential that the signing and witnessing process is done correctly, as any errors may result in the will being declared invalid.

8. Review and Update Your Will Regularly

Life circumstances can change over time, and it’s essential to keep your will up to date to reflect these changes. Marriage, divorce, the birth of children, or changes in your financial situation may all necessitate updates to your will. Review your will every few years or after significant life events to ensure it still accurately reflects your wishes.

9. Store Your Will Safely

Once your will is complete, it’s important to store it in a safe and secure location, such as a safety deposit box or with your lawyer. Inform your executor and close family members of the location of your will to ensure they can easily access it when needed.

10. Consult a Legal Professional

While it’s possible to create a will on your own, consulting a lawyer or estate planning professional can help ensure that your will is legally valid and accurately reflects your wishes. A legal professional can also provide advice on tax and estate planning strategies to ease the impact of taxes on your estate and your beneficiaries.

The Bottom Line

Creating a will is an essential part of planning for your family’s future and ensuring that your estate is distributed according to your wishes. By understanding the legal requirements in Ontario and taking the time to carefully consider your assets, beneficiaries, and executor, you can create a will that provides peace of mind for you and your loved ones.

At Ontario Wills, we are committed to providing personalized and professional estate planning services that cater to your unique needs. Reach out to our will and estate lawyers today to start creating a comprehensive estate plan that works best for you and your family.

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