It’s official! You’re getting ready to draft your first legal will. The thought of preparing your first will can seem daunting. It’s a complicated subject that can drum up difficult emotions such as the fear of the unknown. As a result, estate planning often gets bumped to the bottom of the to-do list.

Thankfully, preparing your will is a fairly straightforward process that will result in your peace of mind. You will know that in the event of your death, you will be dividing up your assets according to your wishes and contributing to the well-being of your family members and loved ones.

Welcome screen on Willful web app on a phone

1. Identify the key people involved

Before sitting down and writing your will, it’s essential to outline the list of people you’d like to fill the following key roles.

Custodian(s): the custodian(s) of your child is responsible for the physical custody of a minor if you and your spouse pass away. Oftentimes the custodian is the same person as the guardian.

Guardian(s): The guardian(s) of your children will assume management of the assets of a minor if you and your spouse pass away. It can be a single person or a couple who you trust completely.

Executor and Estate Trustee: Ideally a spouse, relative or close friend, this person executes the wishes in your will, distributes funds to your beneficiaries, and can act on behalf of your business and financial interests.

Spouse: If you’re married, you may want to create a mirrored will, and in that case, you should work together to make decisions on your shared assets or dependants. 

Attorney for property: This person will make decisions about your property and finances if you are medically unable to do so yourself. Choose somebody you trust such as a spouse, relative or a close friend.

Attorney for personal care: A spouse, relative or close friend with good judgment, this person will be the voice of your healthcare decisions if you are unable to communicate.

Backups: Specifying backups (also called substitutes) will add additional layers of certainty to your plan. Your initial choice may refuse the task, or be unable to act for other reasons, which is why it’s important to have a plan B.

2. Have the conversations

However hard or uncomfortable the discussion may be, once you’ve decided who the key people involved in your will should be, it’s important to talk to them. Roles such as the guardian or attorney for personal care can be financially and emotionally taxing, so it’s important to ensure that they are willing to take on the responsibility.

3. Make a list of your items for gifting purposes

Take a tour around your home, and create a list of valuables and items that you’d like to include in your will as it’s hard to think through all the items on the spot.

Specific gifts, also known as Bequests, are identifiable pieces of property or monetary amounts gifted to individuals upon your passing. These gifts are not included in your residual estate. Some common gifts include cash, jewelry, art, clothing, family heirlooms or mementos with special meaning.

In terms of the financials, you don’t need to worry about calculating your current net worth or the value of your RRSPs – your will covers your umbrella estate (everything you own, unless it’s owned jointly, or already has a named beneficiary). 

4. Involve your spouse

If you’re married or in a common-law relationship it’s a good idea to sit down together when drafting the will, especially when making important decisions like who will care for your dependents when you both pass on.

It’s important to remember that both you and your partner will need to have your individual wills signed and witnessed separately.

5. Block off some quiet time

When you’re finally ready to sit down and create your will, find a quiet place with limited distractions so you can avoid making any mistakes.

You will need between 20 minutes to an hour to complete. With Willful, you can easily complete your will within 20 minutes from start to finish.

And that’s it! It’s truly not as complicated as many people perceive. Have the important conversations, gather those important names, and check this important to-do off your list today.