Have you been putting off finishing your will? Has it been on your to-do list for months, even years? You are not alone: over 57% of Canadians do not have a will and millions have wills that need to be updated. If you're wondering why you need to get a will, keep reading.

First, let's start with the basics.

What is a will?

Your will (or last will and testament) is a legal document that outlines your wishes after you pass away. This includes how you want to distribute your assets, such as property or money, and also outlines guardians/custodians that you would want to care for minor children and pets after you die. Your will is also where you name who you’d like to settle your affairs on your behalf – known as an executor.

Now that you know what a will is, here are some reasons why you need one:

7 reasons why you should have a will

1. Creating your will is the catalyst for having important conversations

A common excuse we’ve heard from those who have yet to create their will is “my family will know what to do if I die.” This assumption has caused family friction too often since death, grief and loss can make decision-making highly emotional.

Instead, the process of writing a will and putting your decisions down in writing takes the burden off your loved ones to guess (and challenge) what your wishes would be. This is the time to tell your chosen executor and guardians that you’ve chosen them, and make sure they are up to the task.

2. You decide who will be in charge of closing your estate

You may have family and friends who love and care for you but still would not be up to the task of closing your estate upon your passing. Your will is the opportunity to choose the right person as your executor. Someone in your life who you not only trust but who has the capacity—time, energy, organizational skills—to serve in this role.

The person you choose as your executor shouldn’t be written in stone either, as things can change over the course of your life. With Willful, you can come back and update your choices anytime, free of charge.

3. An important relationship in your life could be ignored by the courts

When you die without a will (known as dying “intestate”) provincial legislation will dictate how your estate is distributed and may impact important relationships in your life that are not recognized by these laws. Common-law partners and other dependants you wish to provide for are vulnerable if you die without a will.

4. You have an emergency plan in place for your minor children and dependants

No one wants to think of a tragic event that could leave a child or children without their parents. This thought exercise will never (ever) be easy, but avoiding it altogether is also not an option. Your will tells your loved ones and the courts who you’ve entrusted to provide care and support for your child or children. While this decision should not be made lightly, it’s important to get this in writing and avoid the turbulence that could ensue because there was no plan in place. Here’s a guide we wrote on what to consider when choosing a guardian.

Like your executor, your decision for your guardian(s) can change over time.

5. You also have a plan in place for your pets

Most pet owners would agree that we love the animals in our lives as much as the humans in our lives (and in some cases, maybe even more!). Put in writing who you’d like to care for your pet when you’re no longer able to and also set aside funds to help support your pet’s needs. Make sure you have this important conversation with whoever you choose so they are aware of what is being asked of them.

6. Maybe this goes without saying...but don’t you want to decide how your estate will be distributed?

Your will is a legally-binding document that lets you determine how you’d like to divide your estate and gives you a place to allocate special gifts of monetary or sentimental value such as books, art and jewelry. Help your loved ones navigate who gets what and minimize the chances of arguments that may arise when wishes aren’t made clear.

7. Last but not least, the gift of giving

You need a will if you wish to include a gift or donation to the charities you care about after you die (you also have the option to leave a percentage of your estate). Many organizations are supported by legacy giving and allow you to pay it forward to help those who need it most.

Bonus reason: You need a will because you deserve peace of mind.

There’s nothing worse than walking around with a nagging thought of “I know there’s something I should do, but I’ll just get to it later.” Procrastination is a dark playground where we can never fully enjoy the present moment knowing there’s unfinished business.

Who should have a will?

The truth is, the answer is that all adults have a will. But here are some key factors that drive people to create their will:

  • You recently got married or remarried
  • You are currently in a common-law marriage
  • You recently went through a common-law separation or divorce
  • You have assets such as a home or multiple properties
  • You have a child(ren) and/or other dependants
  • You own valuable heirlooms such as art or jewelry
  • You have assets that as a result of your death may cause tension among surviving family
  • You own a business or investments
  • You have a cause that really matters to you that you wish to donate to

How to make your will

Now that you know that you need one, here are some easy ways to make your will.

Fun fact: You do NOT need to visit a lawyer or notary to make a legal will in Canada. As long as you meet the requirements, you have a legal will!

Online Wills 

Online will platforms, like Willful, make it easy to make a legal will from the comfort of your home. Online wills are easy to make and affordable. Not only do you get a legal document that is personalized to your unique life situation, you can finish your will from the comfort of your home. 

Plus, many online platforms like Willful, offer free and unlimited updates to your will as life changes.

Will Kits 

Will kits are typically cookie-cutter, fill-in-the-blank templates that help you create your will. Think about it like mad libs, but for estate planning!

Will kits are very cost effective, but if you have a complex estate or would like to add any additional wishes, it may be worthwhile to explore other options, such as an online will platform or visiting a lawyer. Keep in mind that you will also likely need to purchase a new kit every time you want to update your will. While each will kit may be affordable, the costs may add up over time!

Lawyer-Drafted Wills

You don’t need a lawyer to make your will in Canada. However, there are many individuals who may benefit from legal advice. If you have a complex estate or want to include many custom clauses in your will, a lawyer-drafted will might be a good option for you. Keep in mind that this is the most expensive option.

Holographic Wills In Ontario

You can also write your will by hand! A holographic will is a handwritten will that is created without the help of any mechanical devices. Holographic wills should typically only be used if you are unable to have your will witnessed or you have a legal background. While they are free to create, they leave room for error which can result in issues with the will in the future. They are also difficult to update and need to be rewritten every time you need to make a change. It’s worth noting that some provinces do not recognize holographic wills.

How you choose to make your will is a very personal decision. To help you make the right decision, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide for how to make a will in Canada.

Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today. We live by this motto and we encourage you to do the same. With Willful, we worked hard to do the heavy lifting for you so you could create your will quickly from the comfort of your own home without compromising the quality of your documents.

Other common questions about having a will

What happens if I die without a will?

If you die without a will in Canada you’re considered to have died intestate. Despite what many people believe, the government doesn’t automatically get your estate. It does mean that the courts will use provincial laws to decide how to distribute your assets, in addition to appointing an executor, and guardians for any minor children. Unfortunately, this often isn’t what you would have chosen.

Learn more about dying without a will in Canada →

Do I need a will if I have no assets?

Yes. A will does more than distribute your belongings. It’s where you can appoint an executor, guardians for children, and even outline funeral and burial wishes. Even something as simple as gaining access to your home to clean out your fridge can be delayed without having a will.

Plus, ‘assets’ don’t necessarily only refer to items of financial value. Even souvenirs, books, or other sentimental items can be distributed in your will. In fact, even if you have debt when you die, you should have a will!