November is Make a Will Month in Ontario, a month dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of having a will in place. While our mission to help Canadians make a will is year-round, Make a Will Month is a great extra push to quit putting off making a will until “later”. We all know that “later” isn’t always guaranteed.

Making a will is actually easier and less complicated than it may seem. In honour of Make a Will Month, we’re covering some of the basics around making a will and some of our most frequently asked questions.

What Happens If I Die Without A Will?

If you die without a will, you’re considered to have died ‘intestate’. There is a common misconception that this means that your estate is handed over to the government - this is not true at all. Instead, this means the government uses provincial laws to decide how to distribute your estate to surviving relatives and appoints an executor. If you have minor children, it will also choose a guardian for them. The main concern with the government making these choices for you is that their decisions may be very different from what you would have wanted. It also entails long court-delays, expenses and added stress for your loved ones who are already going through an emotional time.

Read More: Dying Without A Will

Are Online Wills Legal?

Yes! In Canada, you don’t need a lawyer to create your will. What makes a will legal is that you’ve signed it in ink in the presence of two witnesses that don’t benefit from your will and your witnesses sign it as well. Canadian laws don’t allow signed digital copies of wills (yet... we’re working on it!) so make sure you find a safe place to store it.

There are many ways to legally make a will in Canada, especially since most people have simple and straightforward estates that don’t require legal advice. However, if you have a complicated estate or need legal advice, a lawyer is always a great alternative.

When Should I Make A Will?

At Willful, we recommend that all adults make a will as soon as possible. While all adults should have one, 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 property or vehicles
  • 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

If I Create A Will Now, Can I Make Changes To It Later On?

Making a will isn’t a one-and-done type of document. Anytime you go through a major life change like getting married (or divorced), having a child, adopting a pet, or buying a new home, you need to update your will. An outdated will may result in leaving assets to someone you’re no longer associated with such as a former spouse or partner. It’s a good idea to do a yearly check-in to make sure your assets will still be distributed the way you want and that key people like your executor, guardians, and power of attorneys are still the best people to take on the role. Make A Will Month is the perfect time to review your will if you have one already!

With Willful, you can make changes to your will at any time for no additional cost. All you have to do is log in to your account and make the necessary changes. Be sure to print, sign and witness your new will and destroy your old copy.

Read More: Glossary of Estate Planning Terms

The Bottom Line

Every adult needs a will in place, yet 57% of Canadian adults don’t have one. The most common reason being good old fashioned procrastination. Make a Will Month is a reminder that all of the resources you need to learn about making a will are available at your fingertips (for free!) and that in today’s digital world you can make a will in less than 20 minutes. We promise it’s not nearly as complicated or time-consuming as you might expect. 

If you have any questions that we didn’t address here, check out our Learn Centre. If you still can’t find the answer to your question, feel free to book a call with our team - we’re here to help!