Your personal last Will and testament is your legacy to family and beneficiaries. A Will is a legal document stating what you would like to happen when you die. Surveys show most Canadian adults (over 55%) do not have signed, legally binding Wills. Be sure yours is up to date and reflects your final wishes.
Dying without a Will can have serious consequences. Once you have passed, you will not be able to choose who inherits your money, real estate or possessions. Your estate’s disposition will follow standard government rules that might not be what you would have chosen! Going to court to protect their legal or financial interests may take those you wanted to have your assets a long time and leave family members without resources they need or specific gifts you intended them to have.
You can leave any real property or possessions you own, except illegal or fraudulently acquired assets, in your Will. Why not make one today?
Making a Legal Will
You can make a legal handwritten or holographic Will in Ontario or hire an Axess Law lawyer to draft a personal Will for you. Handwritten Wills must meet strict legal criteria. Axess Law recommends having an attorney draft your Will to ensure important financial and legal steps that protect your family and estate aren’t left out and your Will is filed where it can be found.
Our Wills and estate lawyers witness your Will and give you copies for estate trustees, safety deposit boxes and trusted next-of-kin. We place a copy with a local wills registry, where it is easy to locate when needed.
If desired, we can create a Power of Attorney (POA) at the same time. POAs are written authorizations granting power to others to make decisions on your behalf if you are injured, ill or elderly. They take effect while you are alive and can be revised or revoked if you change your mind.
Keeping Your Will Updated
The Will you signed most recently will be used to distribute your assets when you die. You owe it to loved ones to update insurers, financial advisors and estate trustees when you marry, separate, divorce, have children or your financial situation changes enough to require updates to your estate.
Making Multiple Wills
When we’re asked can a person have two Wills in Ontario?, we recommend you give it serious consideration. Passing assets outside your personal Will reduces estate taxes and ensures beneficiaries have financial resources much sooner than by going through Ontario probate court. You can make a second Will for:
- life insurance policies, which are tax free and creditor-proof
- RRSPs or RRIFs left tax free to dependants or legally married or common law spouses
- pension plans
- joint bank accounts
- jointly owned investments left to spouses or dependants tax-free during their lifetime
- or segregated funds and guaranteed interest options purchased from an insurance agent.
Leaving Assets to Beneficiaries
If your spouse(s) and adult children are financially independent, you can leave your estate to anyone you desire. That includes stepchildren, grandchildren, friends or business partners. Provided you designate a guardian, you can name pets or you can leave bequests to charity.
Minors or dependants like current or ex-spouses, parents, grandparents, grandchildren or siblings who rely on you for financial support must be provided for in your Will by law, as do children born after you die or that you treated as your own. Dependants left out of your Will can file a court claim for relief. Your Will could also be challenged or overturned if it is unfair or beneficiaries believe you were unduly influenced or coerced or lacked mental capacity to make a Will.
Surviving spouses can choose between equalization payments or gifts left in your Will. Equalization payments are calculated by lawyers and give spouses 50% of a couple’s net worth after debts. For instance, if:
- your assets are $30,000
- your deceased spouse’s are $50,000
- you have debts of $10,000
- your equalization payment is $35,000 (50% of $30,000+$50.000-$10,000=$70,000).
Include a family trust or estate guardian for property to manage money for minors or dependants with physical or mental disabilities. You can end the trust any time after they reach 18.
Wills After Divorce or Separation
When you divorce, assets you left a spouse in your Will are revoked. Your marriage is not legally ended until you have a divorce order from an Ontario court. On the other hand, if you separated but didn’t divorce, your spouse could inherit assets you meant for someone else. Speak to an Axess Law Wills and estate lawyer about how to arrange your finances after separation or divorce.
Your Estate Trustee’s Obligations
Estate trustees’ legal obligations including distributing your estate according to your last Will and testament and accounting to the court for their actions. They typically have “an executor’s year” to finalize estate arrangements. Your trustee must manage your money wisely during that time and can live in Ontario or elsewhere.
Axess Law recommends appointing successor estate trustees in case those you chose die or change their mind. Besides collecting and valuing your assets and paying creditors, your estate trustee (person who administers Wills) makes your funeral arrangements. Including funeral wishes in your Will is helpful, but be assured most trustees talk to family or friends about your final plans.
Estate trustees who don’t follow your wishes, undervalue assets, take too much compensation or or fail to distribute your estate in a reasonable time can be taken to court by beneficiaries. Axess Law can give you helpful advice on trustees’ responsibilities and obligations and setting aside adequate resources to pay for your funeral (on average $20,000), estate administration fees, income and property taxes and your creditors.
Convenient Virtual or In Person Appointments
Call us or use our online booking form to have an online video call with an Ontario family lawyer near you or make an in person appointment at our law offices in Greater Toronto Area. Personal Will costs are affordable when you use Axess Law. A last Will and testament for single person starts at $199.99 and power of attorneys are $69.99 or $99.99 for couples. Updates are inexpensive (how much?) and ensure your final Will is current.