For many Ontarians, making a will can feel extremely overwhelming. In fact, according to an Angus Reid study, 65% of Ontario residents don’t have an up-to-date will.

The good news is that making a will is a lot easier than you might think! In this article, we’ll cover the basics around making a legal will in Ontario, so you can feel confident that your estate plan is legally-valid and meets your needs!

What Is A Last Will and Testament in Ontario? 

Often referred to as a will, your last will and testament is a legal document that outlines your wishes in the event you pass away.  Your will is essentially a blueprint for your family and loved-ones to follow after you pass away.

In your will, you can outline how you’d like to distribute the assets that you own, including property, money, and anything of sentimental value. You will also be able to name an executor and guardians for any dependents.

Learn more about last will and testaments in Canada

You are not required to visit a lawyer to make a legal will in Ontario. However, there are some requirements that you do need to meet in order for your document to be legally-binding. The requirements for a legal will in Ontario are as follows:

  • The will must be created by you, of sound mind, and over the age of majority in Ontario (age of 18).

  • The will must be made by you - the testator (No, you cannot make a will for someone else!).

  • You must sign the document in the presence of two valid witnesses.

  • Your witnesses must sign the last page of your will together with you.

  • Your will must be signed in wet ink and stored as a physical copy (only the original copy of your will is valid and it cannot be signed digitally at this time). Your witnesses must sign the last page of your will together with you.

What Happens When You Die Without A Will in Ontario?

If you die without a will in Ontario, you’re considered to have died intestate. No, contrary to popular belief, the government doesn’t automatically get your estate. It does mean that the courts will use provincial laws to decide how to distribute your assets, in addition to appointing an executor, and guardians for any minor children. Unfortunately, this often isn’t what you would have chosen.

In Ontario, the Succession Law Reform Act dictates how your estate is distributed if you die without a will. This is typically the order of distribution:

  • If you have a spouse but no children, your spouse gets your entire estate.
  • If you have a spouse and children, the spouse will get the first $200,000 and the remainder will be divided equally between the children and spouse.
  • If you don’t have a spouse but have children, your estate is divided equally between your children. If any of your children have died, their children (your grandchildren) get their share.
  • If you don’t have a spouse, children or grandchildren, your estate is divided equally between your parents. If only one is alive, they get your entire estate.
  • If you don’t have a spouse, children or grandchildren, your estate is divided equally between your parents. If only one is alive, they get your entire estate.

Common-law spouses and other loved-ones can often be left vulnerable if you die intestate, as those relationships are not always accounted for in the provincial rules.

It’s also important to recognize that dying without a will can result in additional burden and stress on your loved-ones to wrap up your estate. It can be time consuming, costly, and cause delays in the distribution of your estate.

How To Make Your Will in Ontario

You don’t need a lawyer or notary to make a will in Ontario! There are several ways you can make a legal will, depending on what fits your unique life situation. Here are some common ways to make a will in Ontario including using an online will platform, using a DIY will kit, or visiting a lawyer. 

Online Wills In Ontario

Online will platforms, like Willful, make it easy to make a legal will from the comfort of your home. Online wills are easy to make and affordable. Some of the benefits of using a platform like Willful include:

  • Customized legal documents that reflects your unique life situation
  • Create a will (and power of attorney) anytime, anywhere in less than 20 minutes
  • Guided platform that ensures you don’t miss anything
  • Expert support by phone, email, or chat
  • Easy updates to your will as your life changes
  • No surprise fees!

We’ve partnered with top estate lawyers in the Ontario so you can feel confident knowing your personal document reflects your wishes. Willful is also proudly founded and based in Ontario! 

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Will Kits In Ontario

Will kits are typically cookie-cutter, fill-in-the-blank templates that help you create your will. Think about it like mad libs, but for estate planning!

If you have a complex estate or would like to add any additional wishes, it may be worthwhile to explore other options, such as an online will platform or visiting a lawyer. Keep in mind that you will also likely need to purchase a new kit every time you want to update your will. While each will kit may be affordable, the costs may add up over time!

Lawyer-Drafted Wills In Ontario

While you don’t need a lawyer to make a will in Ontario, there are many individuals who may benefit from legal advice. If you have a complex estate or want to include many custom clauses in your will, a lawyer-drafted will might be a good option for you.
While lawyers are able to offer the highest level of customization and legal advice, the cost of having a lawyer draft your will can be much higher than the other options. You can expect a lawyer-drafted will to cost anywhere from $300 to $1400 in Ontario. In addition, you may want to account for additional expenses any time you need to make an update.

Holographic Wills In Ontario

A holographic will is a handwritten will that is created without the help of any mechanical devices. Holographic wills are legal in Ontario. Holographic wills should typically only be used if you are unable to have your will witnessed or you have a legal background. While they are free to create, they leave room for error which can result in issues with the will in the future. They are also difficult to update and need to be rewritten every time you need to make a change.

Can I Write My Own Will in Ontario?

Yes! In Ontario, it is legal to write your own will as long as you’ve met all the criteria for a legal will.  This means you can confidently create your will with an online platform, like Willful, or even by hand if you wish.

Just remember to follow all the signing and witnessing requirements for the type of will you’ve created. In Ontario, only holographic wills (wills written by hand) do not require witnesses. If you’re writing your will with the help of any mechanical process (will kits, printed documents, typewriters etc.) you will need two valid witnesses.

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When Is Probate Required In Ontario?

Probate is the process of the courts formally accepting your will. Most estates in Ontario require probate. However, there are a few exceptions - for example, if you don’t own real estate or property.

In Ontario, probate fees are not required if the estate is under $1000. For estates larger than $1000, Ontario uses an increasing scale based on the size of the estate.

Other Common Questions About Making Wills in Ontario

Does A Will Need to Be Notarized in Ontario?

The short answer is no! A will does not need to be notarized in Ontario for it to be legal. 

However, there are a couple instances where you may need to include a notary, including for your affidavit of execution. Your affidavit of execution helps confirm the validity of your will and is required if your will needs to go through probate. An affidavit of execution is NOT required for your will to be legal. It can be completed at the time you execute your will, at a later date, or even after you pass away. Many Ontarians will choose to wait to complete this process if they expect they may need to make updates to their will.

Read More: Does my will need to be notarized?

How Much Does It Cost To Make A Will in Ontario?

A will doesn’t have to be expensive! At Willful, you can make a legal will for as little as $99.

Depending on how you’ve decided to make your will, the costs can range from $0 to $400 for a very simple will. If you have a complex estate, it can climb even higher to $1,100-$1,400. You may also incur additional costs every time you make an update to your will.

You can often spot will kits at your local office supply store or bookstore. While will kits are relatively low cost, they are generally only a good fit for those with very simple estates. They are designed to be one-size-fits-all and may not fit your unique life situation. 

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