Willful was designed to make it so easy to create your own legally-binding will that you can skip the trip to a lawyer and avoid getting your own law degree. That being said, the process of succession planning can be riddled with plenty of confusing lingo.

Here are some of the most common succession planning terms in Canada and what they mean for your succession.

Common terms

Advance Healthcare Directive: A document that outlines what type of medical care you would want in the event of an emergency. Read more about advance healthcare directives in Quebec here.

Affidavit of Execution: A legal document sworn by one of the witnesses of a will or codicil verifying that they and the other witness (if two witnesses are required) were present for the signing of the document in the Testator’s presence. This document is required in order to obtain a grant of probate in Quebec.

Age of majority: The age at which an individual can create a will. The age of majority is 18 in Quebec. 

Assets: Tangible or intangible items of value owned by the Testator. For example: property, vehicles, cash, bank accounts, investments, and patents.

Bequest/legacy: A gift left in your will, either as a specific item/amount of money/class of items, or a percentage of your residue.

Codicil: A legal document that supplements, explains or modifies a will in an effort to keep it up-to-date. For example, adding a new child to your will after giving birth. A codicil may be a formal document or it may be a holograph (handwritten), as long as the codicil is in the same type as the will. Online will creation platforms like Willful do not require a codicil to make updates to a will. If you make updates using an online will creation platform, be sure to print and follow the signing and witnessing instructions again to make the will legally valid.

Contingent legatee: An individual or charity you designate to receive your succession in the unlikely case all of your primary legatees are unable to inherit your succession - think of it as an ultimate backup legatee. Also known as an alternate legatee.

Family patrimony: A spouse’s right to a share of some family assets under family patrimony rules in Quebec. If you pass away before your spouse, any family homes, vehicles, and contributions to family plans comprise your family patrimony. 

Holographic will: A will handwritten (not typed) by you (the Testator) which requires no witnesses. This method is often not recommended, as human error may result in contradictions, omissions, and/or errors to the will. A holographic will must be signed by the Testator. A holographic paper is not testamentary unless it contains a deliberate or fixed and final expression of intention as to the disposal of property upon death.‍

Immovable property: real property owned by an individual (for example a house). The opposite is movable property (anything else you own).

Incapacitation: A state of permanent or temporary physical or mental impairment that results in an individual’s lack of sufficient understanding to make rational and responsible decisions related to their healthcare or personal assets.

Inheritance: The assets gifted - or “bequeathed” - to a loved one upon an individual’s passing.

Insolvency: Occurs when the value of the residual succession, disposition of property, or bequests exceed assets. This results in the reduction of value of the bequests in order to satisfy repayment of other debts.

Intestacy: It is possible that part of your succession has been left by way of will, or none of it has. This term means that a person hasn’t left a will for all of the assets owned by the testator and laws of intestacy will dictate what happens to those assets. The opposite of testacy.

Inter Vivos trust: Unlike a testamentary trust, which is created on death, an Inter Vivos trust is created while someone is still alive.

Issue: Issue includes all descendants i.e. children, grand-children, etc. 

Last will and testament: A legal document that outlines how you wish to distribute your assets such as property (real or personal), money, or care of minor children after you die. Your will is also where you name your Liquidator who will be in charge of settling your affairs on your behalf. To be legally binding, a will in Canada does not need to be created by a lawyer. For an overview of the various ways to make a will in Quebec, read more here.

Legatee: An individual whom you assign within your will to receive your property or assets after you pass away.

Life interest: This refers to a legatee’s right to use or benefit from a property or asset held in trust while they’re alive. When the legatee passes away, their life interest would terminate.

Liquidator: A trusted individual appointed in your will who helps execute the wishes outlined in your will, and can act on behalf of your business and financial interests when you die. This person may also be your trustee with a will.

Living will: A living will is a document that provides instructions about end-of-life decisions – whereas a will adheres to what happens when you pass away, a living will outlines your wishes while you’re still alive. 

Mandatary: Someone you trust with the authority to make decisions on your behalf about your property, finances, personal life, and medical care in the event of an emergency, should you become incapacitated and be unable to make those decisions for yourself. 

Marital regime: Your marital regime determines what rules apply to the division of your assets upon the dissolution of your marriage, either because of death or divorce. If you are separate as to property, you may want to visit a lawyer to ensure any marriage contracts are referenced in your will.

Mirrored will: Used to allow two people, usually married couples, to create almost identical wills which leave everything to each other. This would cover both parties’ wishes. In Quebec, you can create a mirrored will by purchasing two individual plans and mirroring (aligning) your choices in your individual document.

Notarization: The process of authenticating a legal document, such as a will. This can include witnessing a document, and verifying that the signatures on the relevant document are legitimate and made by individuals of sound mind. 

Notarial will: A notarial will is a specific type of will that has to be executed by a notary. Notarial wills are the most common type of will in Quebec because if you create a notarial will, your estate is not subject to probate.

Notary: In Quebec notaries are professionals who are licensed by the Chambres des Notaires, and who have the power to draft and execute wills. In all other provinces except BC, notaries are not able to draft wills.

Patrimony: all property owned by an individual other than real property including for example all money, investments, stock certificates, cars, personal effects, and furnishing. 

Personal Representative: A person who administers someone’s succession after they pass away. This can either be a liquidator (someone appointed by the deceased person in their will), or an heir who steps into that role.

Probate: A process wherein the court establishes the validity of a last will and testament upon the death of the testator. The probate process in Quebec is only required for holographic (handwritten) wills, or wills in front of witnesses. 

Protection mandate: A legal document that gives someone you trust the authority to make decisions on your behalf about your property, finances, personal life, and medical care in the event of an emergency or if you become incapacitated and are unable to do so yourself. In other provinces protection mandates are typically called Power of Attorney documents.

Residue: Covers all personal, financial, and real property that is not jointly-owned (i.e. a house or bank account), that does not already have a named legatee (for example a life insurance policy), and is not given away as specific legacies (also known as bequests) or lump sum charitable donations after debts and taxes have been paid.

Revocation: Revoking a will by either destroying a will or creating a new will means that the existing will is no longer in effect. Unless it’s clearly stated in a will, a new will automatically revokes any wills made previously. You can revoke a will anytime prior to your death.

Succession planning: The process of arranging, while alive, the distribution of your assets and wealth (your “succession”) after you die.

Testacy: The testator has left a full and valid will. The opposite of dying intestate.

Testator: The individual for whom the will is being prepared. A female making a will is called a testatrix.

Testamentary trust: An arrangement that assigns a trustee to hold assets upon specific conditions that are outlined in a last will and testament on behalf of a legatee upon the testator’s death. A trust specifies when and under which conditions the legatee may inherit the asset(s). A trust is often used to hold inheritances for minor children until they reach the age of majority.

Trustee: A trusted individual appointed in your will who holds your succession assets in trust until distributing them to your legatees. 

Tutor: A person or people who will assume legal, moral and financial responsibility for your children if you and your spouse pass away. Tutor(s) are usually a family member or close friend.

Will in front of witnesses (also known as an attested will): A non-notarial will. A will in front of witnesses can be created by a lawyer, or via a platform like Willful (with our $99 plan). This type of will must be signed & witnessed in order to make it legally valid, and it requires probate after you pass away.

Will registration: The process of registering your will with one of the two provincial registries. Notarial wills are registered with the Chambre des notaires, and lawyer-drafted wills are registered with the Barreau du Québec.

Witness: A person who participates in validating a will.