How do I Write a Simple Will in Canada?

By James Stuart - Updated June 19, 2017
Man signing documents at a desk

Writing a will helps your family and friends understand your wishes in the case of your death, but simply listing your wishes on a sheet of paper is not always enough. In Canada, you must ensure that your will is legally binding, otherwise your family can easily contest it in court. Most provinces require that you use standardized will forms. You can obtain will forms in many stationary stores, and there are also several websites that can help you write a simple legally binding will. However, writing any legal document on your own can be dangerous. To ensure your will is legal, consider consulting a lawyer.

Make a list of all your belongings and consider who you intend to leave them to after your death. Writing your will is easier if you have this list to consult.

Obtain will forms from a stationary store or online. Citizens of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta can legally choose to purchase a will form or write a free-form, handwritten will. However, in the rest of Canada, citizens must use a standardized will form.

Write a document title, then write your declaration. The title should be simple, such as, "The Last Will and Testament." A declaration states that this is your last will and testament and includes your name and any other relevant personal information. It may also include the knowledge that you are sound of mind and not under duress.

Select an executor. This person should have good knowledge of your assets. An executor is typically a spouse or child.

Name a guardian for your children or dependents. Ensure that you have spoken with the person you have chosen to be the guardian about the possibility of this happening in the event of your death and that they accept the responsibility.

Write a list of "Bequests." The "Bequests" identify the specific people you want to inherit your possessions. Conversely, you can allow your executor or chief beneficiary to decide how to divide your belongings. A chief beneficiary is the person receiving the bulk of your inheritance.

Include your wishes for funeral arrangements and what should be done with your body.

Sign and date your will in the presence of a witness. This person can be anyone who is legally an adult and does not stand to benefit from your will. They must see you sign the will, then sign and date it themselves.

Tip

Consider adding an alternate executor, in case your chief executor is unavailable.

Several companies in Canada sell kits that will help you with the process of creating a will.

When naming beneficiaries, be sure to include at least one relevant to avoid confusion. This can be as simple as that person's relationship to you.

Warning

Your executor can be the witness for your document, but to avoid a conflict of interest, your spouse or a beneficiary listed in the will cannot. If one of these parties is a witness, your will may become legally void.

Even a legally binding will can be contested in court.

Large estates are often complex and should be handled by a lawyer to avoid confusion.

About the Author

James Stuart began his professional writing career in 2010. He traveled through Asia, Europe, and North America, and has recently returned from Japan, where he worked as a freelance editor for several English language publications. He looks forward to using his travel experience in his writing. Stuart holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and philosophy from the University of Toronto.

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