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What is Canada Will Registry and How Does It Work

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    Congratulations on getting your will in place! Once you’re happy with your will and it has been signed, witnessed, and stored in a safe place, there's one step left: registering your will. We’ve partnered with NoticeConnect, the creators of CanadaWillRegistry.org, to offer one free registration for all Willful customers (a $40 value)—and it’s as easy as a few clicks. This article explains why it’s important to register your will and outlines step-by-step instructions for registering your will with CanadaWillRegistry.org

    Please note that if you live in BC, there is a provincial will registry as well that allows residents to register their will for a fee.

    Canada Will Registry - Register Your Will

    Why should I register my will?

    Not many people know when their estate planning documents will be needed—such is the nature of life and death. Many things can happen between the day you write, sign and store your will and the day your executor and/or family will need to find it. Lawyers retire, law firms close, and people move. When a family can’t find a will, the law presumes the will was revoked. This has major implications as your estate will then be distributed according to a government formula rather than your wishes. There are situations where it is possible, despite the loss of an original signed will, to make an application to the court for an order declaring the validity of a lost or misplaced original signed will, however, this is often quite onerous as there are a number of requirements that must be proven, the most difficult of those to satisfy being able to rebut the legal presumption that the testator destroyed the will with the necessary intention to revoke it. In short, to prevent unnecessary difficulties, it is a good idea to register your will. 

    But what if I made copies?

    Your executor(s) need to find the original documents that have been wet-signed (signed on paper with ink). Attempting to probate a copy of a will (moving the will through the court system) requires an expensive and highly uncertain court procedure.

    How do I register my will if I’ve made my will with Willful?

    After completing, signing, and witnessing your will, decide on a safe place to store it. This should be somewhere accessible to your executor—possibly in a fireproof box/ bag or secure filing cabinet at home. If you’re storing your will in a safe or safety deposit box, ensure your executor or family members know how to access it in the event of your passing. Make sure to inform your executor of the location and then head to the “Your Documents” page in your Willful account, or your Willful post-purchase checklist email, to find your single-use promo code for a free will registry on CanadaWillRegistry.org. 

    You’ll then sign up with the following information: 

    • Your legal name
    • Your birthdate
    • Your current address
    • The date your will was signed 
    • Optional: Who drafted your will
    • Optional: The name of your executor(s) and alternate executors (if you have chosen any)

    While will registry with CanadaWillRegistry.org costs $40+ HST for the general public, Willful customers receive a one-time code to register their wills for free. If any of the above information is updated or changes and you wish to register your new information or updated will again, the $40+ HST will apply. Please review the information you provide very carefully as once it is submitted to CanadaWillRegistry.org it cannot be changed or viewed unless a death certificate is provided.

    Why can’t I just store my will online at CanadaWillRegistry.org?

    Unfortunately Canadian laws do not support digital signage and storage of wills. CanadaWillRegistry.org is simply designed to provide confirmation that you have a will, and to make the location of your documents searchable as long as a valid death certificate is provided. It does not allow you to upload or store your will - you still need to store a physical wet-signed copy.

    What if I’m an executor - how do I search for a will?

    If you’re an executor looking for the will of a deceased friend or family member or believe you may have been chosen as their executor, you can visit CanadaWillRegistry.org and pay to perform a search. If the person searching has a valid death certificate, CanadaWillRegistry.org will confirm that a will exists and disclose where it was stored. 

    Notice to Creditors

    As an executor, NoticeConnect (the company behind CanadaWillRegistry.org) makes your job easier in another way. When a person passes away, their executor has to put out a Notice to Creditors so that anyone owed money by this person can come forward and claim it. If an executor distributes the estate without advertising for creditors, they could be required to personally pay any amounts owing to the extent that assets were distributed. While common practice is to advertise for any potential creditors of the deceased in three consecutive weekly editions of a local newspaper with sufficiently reasonable circulation (and in multiple jurisdictions if the deceased did business in a number of jurisdictions), it can also be done online. With NoticeConnect, executors can publish a notice to creditors in less than 5 minutes to protect themselves from this liability. 

    What if I want to keep this information private?

    Your privacy is protected—NoticeConnect will only disclose the existence and location of your will after your death. Your data is encrypted and stored in Canada in one of the world’s top data centres.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    1. Do you have to be an executor to do the search? What if no one knows who the executor is? 

    Anyone can do a search. As part of their search, the person has to say who they are and why they are performing this search. If they have a valid reason for looking (i.e. they're not a journalist just digging for information) and they can show that the person has died, then the information about the existence/location of the will can be disclosed.

    2. What do you need to prove who you are and that the person has passed away to get the location of their will? 

    The Canada Will Registry follows the same practices that law firms do for this situation. They require a license and death certificate. If the case is unclear or confusing, they connect with their lawyers for advice. 

    3. If you decide to make a new will and register it, how can you go in and delete the old will that was registered previously? Is it an override or replace situation? 

    The Canada Will Registry recommends registering new wills that have been updated and executed on different dates. The Canada Will Registry will be alerted of any wills that the testator has registered previously. The Canada Will Registry does not delete/replace old ones, especially because there may be separate wills for separate assets, or, if there's a problem with a new will, the executor/family may have to rely on the old one.

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