Bequests in Wills can be as simple as leaving a friend a favourite book — or as complicated as deciding who gets what shares in a thriving business corporation. But they should be made freely, without interference or undue influence from anyone.
First, what are bequests in Wills? Here are six types you should know about:
Making financial bequests in Wills from overall assets in your estate is called a general bequest.
Bequests in Wills from specific bank or investment accounts are deemed demonstrative bequests. If the account is depleted or closed by the time you die, bequests are withdrawn from your general assets.
Specific bequests in Wills are like the book you left your friend. Leaving jewellery, heirloom china, or your vintage Chevy to a beneficiary is making a specific bequest. Include a detailed description, such as the manufacturer, designer, or author, to help your estate trustee locate assets you designate as specific bequests in Wills.
Try percentage bequests if your estate’s value could change in future. For instance, instead of a fixed dollar amount, consider leaving 25% of your estate to each adult child. Minors under 18, or mentally incapable offspring, require an adult “guardian of property” to manage bequests in Wills.
You can even make bequests conditional, such as requiring a minor to continue their schooling after you pass on. Naturally, probate courts will only uphold lawful conditions.
Your estate residue is any leftover assets or real property after debts are honoured, funeral and burial or internment expenses paid, and bequests in Wills distributed. Bequests in Wills can certainly be made from the estate’s residue. Many are.
Read our ultimate guide to Wills.
What is Undue Influence Anyway?
Now that you’ve decided on what bequests you want to include in your Will, ensure it is legally valid. Your Will must be your own final testament, signed by you in the presence of witnesses like an Axess Law lawyer.
No one can coerce you into making bequests, or force you to sign over assets that benefit them without your informed consent. Unsure what constitutes undue influence in a Will? Ontario courts look for the three elements of undue influence in Wills.
- Nature of Relationship — The Will maker experienced outright and overpowering coercion from someone they trusted or placed their confidence in. To prove this element, it’s important to show motive (why) and opportunity (to what end) undue influence occurred.
- Nature of Transaction — The Will was unfair. The party challenging the Will must show they were disadvantaged, or the coercer unfairly benefitted from the Will.
- Full, Free and Informed Thought — What proof exists that the Will was freely made? For example, the defendant must demonstrate the Will maker had independent advice, and wasn’t influenced to give them an unfair advantage.
Stopping undue influence in Wills a loved one makes.
Is Undue Influence Hard to Prove?
It can be. Read our post for more on how to identify if an Ontario Will may be invalid because of undue influence or coercion.
Axess Law ensures directions in Wills are free of undue influence by drafting individual or mirror Wills for spouses, and witnessing their signing. We watch for red flags a Will maker may have been coerced, based on direction from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice (Gironda v Gironda, 2013 CarswellOnt 8612).
Undue influence — lawyer responsibilities for preventing coercion or unfair persuasion.
Red Flags to Watch for in Wills
A Will maker may be vulnerable to undue influence if they:
- depend emotionally or physically on a family member, friend, or other influencer
- are socially isolated, involved in a family conflict, or grieving
- drafted a new Will inconsistent with past versions
- changed their Will at the same time as other legal documents, such as powers of attorney
- or the suspected coercer was overinvolved in making the Will — they picked or instructed the Wills and estate lawyer, reviewed a draft copy, or took the Will maker to a lawyer.
Does Undue Influence Invalidate an Entire Will?
Undue influence doesn’t necessarily invalidate an entire Will. Ontario courts are reluctant to second guess a deceased Will maker. But a court may overturn the contested parts while leaving undisputed bequests intact.
Your executor obligations and undue influence contract law in Canada.
Why You Need a Wills and Estates Lawyer
When the potential for undue influence worries you, hire Axess Law. Our virtual Wills and estates lawyers remote in with you and other family members to draft Wills online.
We scan the room via video camera to confirm who is in the room. Our experienced lawyers for Wills watch for signs coercion or undue influence may be affecting your decision making ability. If it appears a family member or other party is leading the conversation in ways that make you or someone else uncomfortable, we reschedule your legal session to a later date.
Axess Law uses only secure, confidential video conferencing software to discuss your basic Will. When you’re ready, you can drop into any Axess Law office to sign your last Will and testament. We give you a copy and, for a modest, one-time fee, keep your original in our convenient Wills storage.
How making a professional Will protects your estate.
Make Individual or Mirror “Couple” Wills
Making your Will is so inexpensive you’ll wish you had done it sooner. Axess Law replaces holographic or handwritten Wills by making a new Will for you. Your new Will is legal, properly witnessed, and signed according to criteria for Ontario Wills.
Make multiple wills – Ontario estates.
Own a family business or partnership? Axess Law writes multiple Wills for personal and business use.
Bring your spouse or common law partner, and save on legal fees by making individual or mirror Wills at the same time. You can make personal bequests to family or friends, and duplicate provisions in your spouses’ Will that protect your family if you die at the same time.
Save With Flat Fees for Basic Wills
Axess Law’s basic Wills start at only $199.99 and up plus HST for individuals, or $149.99 each plus HST when you and your spouse or partner attend a single appointment. Power of attorney for property (finances) or personal care can be added for a modest fee at the same time, or you can appoint a power of attorney later.
Virtual Wills with two powers of attorney are $249.99 and up each plus HST. Pay $299.99 each plus HST when you make your Will in person at an Axess Law office in Greater Toronto Area or Ottawa.
Appoint powers of attorney in your personal Will.
We Have Lawyers for Cheap Wills
Our virtual Wills and estates lawyers can video conference with you anywhere in Ontario. Call or drop by any open Axess Law office in Greater Toronto Area or Ottawa to book appointments. Our online booking form takes minutes to use.
Axess Law has onsite parking, and easy transit access when you need a reliable, affordable lawyer near you.