Many Ontario residents do not have written wills. Dying without a will causes headache for loved ones who then have to deal with unnecessary financial and legal administrative costs during a time when they could be grieving. For most of us, writing a simple holograph will is good enough. A holograph will is written in your own handwriting, dated, witnessed & signed by a couple of people and it outlines what you want to happen when you die. If you don’t feel comfortable with writing your own will, consult a lawyer.
Here is a checklist of items to address in your will:
- date the will was made
- who will be your executor?
- what to do with your assets?
- who looks after your kids?
- who decides your personal (medical) care when you can’t speak for yourself?
- how to access your digital accounts such as your social media accounts
- communicate your intentions
First, date your will and if its more than 1 page, say how many pages the will is and put page numbers on each page (tip, if your will is more than 1 page, consult a lawyer). Start your will by stating its purpose such as “this is the last will and testament of xxx”. Name your executor by writing something like “I want my executor to be xxx”. Outline what you would like to do with your assets by saying something like “I would like my daughter xxx to be the beneficiary of my estate”. If you have kids, outline the person who will be the guardian of your children. It would also be good if you name someone in your will who will speak for you if you can’t speak for yourself, this is sometimes called a “living will”. This person will address your medical care while you are in a coma, and can be a different person than your executor.
After you’ve written and signed your will, it is important to communicate your intentions to those who have an interest in your estate. Make sure your executor knows about their responsibilities, tell the key people with an interest in your estate where your will is located, and make sure everyone who has an interest in your estate is up to date, this will reduce conflict. If the people with an interest in your estate are currently in conflict, try and resolve these conflicts as soon as possible.
For most of us without business interests, settling our estate is a simple administrative task. If you are married, it might help to hold financial assets jointly with your spouse. If you own a small business, make sure the business has a succession plan. Keep your will somewhere that is accessible to your heirs and/or your executor. That way, they can begin settling your estate in a timely manner.
If this sounds too complicated, consult a lawyer.