Personal Wills in Ontario
If you've ever wondered what would happen to your estate if you died, you need a personal Will.
It's never too soon to get started. Making an Ontario Will keeps your personal assets in order and safeguards loved ones.
Dying intestate without a Will puts your estate and family at risk.
Your mortgage, debts, dependants and even pets could be up in the air if you die without leaving proper instructions for property and possessions.
Banks and credit unions often request probate certificates to release funds to family members. Insurers and pension plans can be reluctant to pay life insurance or death benefits without court proof of who is your authorized estate trustee, executor or personal representative.
Depending on your real property title, even realtors and land registries may not be able to transfer property legally without a probate certificate. A Will or proof of death may not be enough to sell or transfer property your family may rely on to pay bills after you're gone.
Drafting Personal Wills and Estate Plans
Making estate plans and personal Wills lets your family know where assets are and what your final wishes were. You can preplan and prepay funeral expenses, arrange life and mortgage insurance to support loved ones and appoint guardians for minors or dependants of any age.
Axess Law's Wills and estates lawyers help you make a plan for life. Our Greater Toronto Area lawyers answer your questions about what to include in estate plans. Government income and estate plan changes can affect your finances and Will bequests. Our licensed legal professionals have tips for how to make estate plans that stand the test of time.
Right now, before you put it off, is the best time to:
Review Insurance Policies
Do you have coverage for long-term care if you become feeble or disabled, to protect minors or dependants when you're gone or replace family income while your Wills are being probated? Life events like having or adopting children (congratulations!) or starting a business may make your financial plans out of date. Estate planning prompts you to review financial assets you plan to leave next-of-kin.
Name Beneficiaries for Joint or Investment Accounts
Naming designates for bank accounts and investments lets assets pass directly to benefactors without waiting for probate court. It's important you double check employee pension plans to ensure beneficiary lists are current. If you are separated, divorced, remarried or widowed, your information may be out of date.
Approach Potential Estate Administrators
Any mentally capable adult can be your estate administrator or executor, but not everyone may want to. Select a trustworthy, reliable and financially competent administrator by asking those you know if they would be willing to represent you.
Draft Legally Binding Personal Wills
You could make a handwritten or holographic will, but will it be legal? Ontario has mandatory rules for personal Wills and who can witness or sign them. Axess Law's experienced Wills lawyers can draft a Will for surprisingly little, just $199.99 and up or $249.99 if you appoint a power of attorney at the same time.
We make sure you have authorized witnesses to attest you signed your Will and notarize your Will to make it official. Affidavits of executions we write for you leave a permanent record of witnesses to legal Wills in case an Ontario court asks for them.
Appointing Estate Trustees or Executors in Ontario
When you die, your estate trustees, executors or personal representatives, as they are called:
- Talk with next-of-kin about funeral or cremation arrangements.
- File Wills with Ontario probate court.
- Get court permission to probate your estate by requesting a certificate of appointment as estate trustee (with or without Will).
- Collect and value property and possessions to pay mandatory estate administration taxes.
- Inform creditors, financial institutions and employers and pay debts like credit cards, mortgages, utility bills or income taxes from your estate.
- Sell or rent real estate assets, based on personal instructions in your Wills.
- Invest assets to ensure your money grows until it is distributed.
- Can represent you in court to resolve lawsuits or legal challenges to your Wills.
- And ensure beneficiaries receive your remaining assets.
5 Steps for Writing Personal Wills
Axess Law shows you how to create single or multiple personal Wills to keep your assets and family safe.
1. List Assets for Your Will
- Make a list of financial assets - bank accounts, mutual funds, stocks, bonds, GICs.
- Add real estate - your matrimonial home, cottage, condo or waterfront lot.
- Include electronics - TVs, computers, mobile devices, appliances, power tools or yard equipment.
- Inventory collectibles - antiques, art, rare books or heirloom jewelry.
- Decide what clothes or jewelery to bequeath to others.
- Catalogue items to donate or dispose of.
- Itemize benefits loved ones will receive when you die - life insurance, disability or health insurance, auto accident insurance, survivor's pensions. Remember to list organizations you belong to in case they offer life insurance or disability benefits.
- Record passwords for social media accounts and leave instructions to allow your next-of-kin to access them.
2. Organize Your Debts
Your estate trustee will notify creditors and pay debts after you die. We encourage you to record mortgage loans and home equity lines of credit, vehicle loans, credit cards, lines of credit and promissory notes. Asking Equifax for a free credit report can capture anything you overlooked.
3. Make a Contact List
Who will your estate trustee contact when you die? Include your bank branch, investment brokers, insurance representatives, former employers, Canada Pension Plan, condo strata manager and anyone who holds or manages assets for you.
4. Name Benefactors and Charities
Inform your executor of benefactors and charities you would like possessions or estate gifts to go to. Your estate trustee will use this contact information to distribute your estate according to your wishes.
5. Write Multiple Wills for Complex Estates
Complex estates require careful planning. Making multiple Wills separates personal and business assets. Axess Law's Wills professionals ensure your Ontario Will is legally valid, reducing the chances it will be successfully challenged in court after you're gone.
Your Spouse and Your Will
At Axess Law, we make individual Wills for married or common law couples. Having separate Wills gives you and your spouse more flexibility. You can make joint appointments to update a personal Will or, if you are new to Axess Law, have us make changes without your spouse's involvement..
Your Will reflects your own, personal estate. It lists shared assets, like matrimonial homes or possessions you bought and own together. It can also include assets you brought into a marriage or gifts and inheritances that belong to you alone.
Comingling assets with spouses or common law partners through joint bank accounts or co-signed mortgage loans makes it difficult to divide property if you separate or divorce. You may have to prove you are the sole owner of a gift your family meant only for you or calculate appreciation on assets you owned before you became a couple.
Making a separate Will prevents confusion about what assets you own individually and as a couple.
Providing for Dependants
When you appoint an estate trustee, they handle arrangements like applying for the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) $2,500 death benefit that relieve the burden on loved ones.
Your dependants may qualify for survivor's benefits from CPP for married spouses or common law partners and minors up to 18 (25 for full-time students). Low-income spouses or partners 60 to 64 can apply for the Old Age Security survivor allowance. Your estate trustee can advise your dependents on how to apply or apply on their behalf.
Your Will must provide for spouses and minor or dependant children and parents after you die. Anyone you supported or had a legal obligation to support immediately before your death can petition your estate or the court for financial support if they are left out. Our estate planning attorneys can counsel you on how to structure Wills to meet mandatory support obligations.
Dying Without a Will
The advantages of making a Will far outweigh the delays caused to family if you die intestate (without a Will). Even if you have few or limited assets, we recommend you make a Will.
Your estate may qualify for government assistance with basic funeral expenses or other benefits and waiver of estate administration taxes. Unless you have a Will, your next-of-kin may have to appear in court to claim benefits that are rightfully theirs.
Worse yet, without a Will, government legislation will determine how your assets are distributed. You may not agree with their decisions, but your next-of-kin will have no choice but to accept it. If you have no surviving relatives at all, government may take your estate, robbing you of the chance to leave it to favourite charities.
Disputing a Will
Your Will is your own and, except for spouses, partners or dependants you are legally obligated to support, you can leave your assets to anyone you like. Your estate trustee must distribute it exactly as written in your original Will or any amendments you made to a last Will and testament.
Only a court order can overturn your final instructions. You can rest easy knowing most judges are reluctant to overturn personal Wills without substantial evidence a Will is fraudulent or you lacked the mental capacity to understand it.
Storing Your Will In Perpetuity
Axess Will can store your final Will for a one-time payment of $29.99 plus HST per Will. Or you can date, sign and make copies to leave with spouses, partners, trusted next-of-kin or friend and your estate trustee.
Alternatively, we recommend storing the original in a safety deposit box for safe keeping and giving the location and key to your estate trustee. Depending on their size, safety deposit boxes cost between $50 and $400 a year.
For extra security, Wills can also be filed with an Ontario court for a one-time fee of $20.
Finding Last Wills and Testaments
Last wills and testaments are precious documents. If you've been charged with finding a Will, ask loved ones, family or close friends where to look. Many Will writers make multiple Wills in their lifetime and their estate trustee or next-of-kin often know where they are.
Will Check or Storage Services
Many Ontario Wills and estates lawyers use a central Will Check service or store Wills for their clients. They often know where a deceased client kept their Will. Start your search with the law firm where the Will was drafted.
Going to Court to Get Wills
Next-of-kin or estate trustees can be taken to court for withholding a Will. As long as you appear to have a financial interest in the estate, you can ask a civil court judge to order anyone who has a copy (real or not) to give it to you.
Wills in Land Records
Real estate owners may deposit Wills in Ontario land registry offices when land is their only asset. Check with the local land registry where they lived.
Finally, if you know there is a Will, but you just can't find it, you can apply to an Ontario court for a certificate of appointment as estate trustee without a Will.
Booking Legal Appointments in Greater Toronto Area
Axess Law's licensed lawyers meet with you in person at any of our Greater Toronto Area law offices to draft Wills or advise you on organizing an estate. Remote video conferencing lawyers are available 7 days a week, anywhere in Ontario. Book using our convenient online form or for Toronto lawyers nearby, dial our 1-647-479-0118 lawyer line. We have onsite parking and are easily accessible by public transit.