Even though making a will might sound a bit… dry with all the legalese and paperwork, there’s a lot of things that can still surprise you!
We’re here to help make estate planning easier for Canadians, so we rounded up some of the most interesting that facts that you might not have already known about wills:
1. If you're divorced, your ex-spouse could be entitled to a portion of your estate in some provinces
There’s different rules and regulations regarding your will in each province, but not all covers the circumstances of your marital status like divorce! Even though you’re no longer married, your ex-spouse could still receive appointments (as an executor, for example) or gifts originally left to them.
Updating your will regularly can help you make sure it reflects changes in your wishes as you go through life.
2. You can't leave your estate to an animal in Canada
Did you know pets are considered “property” in Canada? This means that they can’t hold other properties or finances under their paws.
In other countries however, these rules differ! For example, a German heiress left her entire estate to Gunther, the German shepherd.
Instead, appoint a pet guardian and set up a pet trust to ensure that your furry family member will be cared for. Having a plan ready will secure a home and cover any financial costs for your pet after you pass.
3. You can distribute your digital assets
While many people gift physical or sentimental items, you can also gift someone your digital credentials such as social media and email accounts in your will!
This can also include access to cloud-based storage, password banks, online financial accounts, texts, crypto, and more. These are known as digital assets—although intangible, may still carry emotional or practical value.
Protecting these assets in your will can ensure that you don’t lose anything important forever (like photos!) or have your accounts deleted due to inactivity or expiration.
4. The 90 day guardian
In most provinces, guardians of minor children in a will are only recognized for 90 days after the parents pass. They need to apply to be formally and legally appointed. The court will determine if this person is capable or not of caring for your children, and can revoke guardianship if they don’t think it’s a good fit.
But your will is the first step towards having the person you choose to take on the role.
It’s important to choose someone you trust and who’ll willingly take on the responsibility of caring for your children. However, it should also be someone who best reflects your values and beliefs in the interest raising of your kids.
Having back-up guardians can also add an extra sense of security and peace of mind. If the original guardian turns down the appointment or is no longer around when the time comes, your children will still be cared for the way you’d want them to.
5. Paper wills can only be signed with wet ink
How do people check the validity of your will? With a bit of detective work!
It’s important that your physical copy is free from evidence of alterations. In Canada, when you sign your will, it needs to be physically printed and signed in wet ink. Signing with wet ink helps ensure that the will was written by you and not forged. That’s why things like removing staples are not recommended, because the court could perceive the markings as being tampered—this could in some cases make the will invalid.
However, in British Columbia, you can sign your documents digitally for it to be considered legal!
6. “Living wills” don’t exist in Canada, technically
You can’t appoint an executor to make medical or financial decisions on your behalf—if you are incapacitated—in your will. An executor is only in charge of your estate after you pass. However, power of attorney (POA) makes decisions when you’re alive, but in the event that you’re unable to soundly form your own judgment. People often call these “living wills” (a term used in the US!), but in Canada, they’re called POAs or similar.
These are separate documents from your will, and there’s two different main types of POA called, power of attorney of property (managing your finances or businesses, also known as enduring power of attorney) and power of attorney of personal care (for your healthcare decisions, also known as personal directive).
In case of an emergency, be sure to have people appointed accordingly so that your wishes are being respected when carried out.
7. You can leave a charitable legacy
Not many people are aware of this, but it’s known as a “legacy gift”! This is where you can leave a percentage of your estate or a lump sum amount to a charity of your choice. It’s a great way to give back to your community, or support causes that you cared about during your lifetime. No matter how big or small your gift is, the legacy of your contributions will be remembered for years to come.
Estate planning can be full of surprises and be more interesting than you think. Ready to make yours? Get started for free with Willful today.
Check out our other resources, blogs, and articles to learn more about the estate planning process.