For many people, the idea of making a last will and testament may sound like a complicated and daunting task. But, what many Ontarians do not realize is that creating a will is much easier than you think. In this article we will outline the basics of what constitutes as a legal will in Ontario and what you need to know in order to create your own.
A last will and testament, more commonly referred to as a will, is a document outlining your wishes regarding your estate and assets in the event that you pass away. This document states how you would like to distribute assets such as property, money and other sentiments amongst your family and loved ones. It allows you to name an executor and guardians for any dependents (children), you may have.
Having a will is essentially like having a plan in place in case you pass away. It allows you to not only rest assured that your assets are well taken care of in the event of your death, but it also alleviates additional stress and burden for your family and loved ones. Without a will, your loved ones may have to undergo a time-consuming, costly and difficult process to distribute your assets.
In Ontario, if you pass away without a will, courts will use provincial laws to determine how your assets will be distributed, which will most likely not follow your intentions or wishes. The Succession Law Reform Act are the laws the court will follow.
In order for a will to be considered a legal document it has to meet several qualifications. Firstly, the will must be created by you, the testator, when you are of sound mind and above the age of 18. You cannot create a will for another person. Secondly, you must sign the will with two valid witnesses present. The two witnesses must also sign the last page of the will together in your presence. Lastly, all signatures must be signed with an actual pen in wet ink and a physical copy must be stored. Only the original copy of the will is considered to be the valid legal document. Currently, any last will and testament signed digitally are not considered valid.
So, how do you create a will? There are several options you can consider when making a legal will such as using an online will platform, a will kit or visiting a lawyer. Online will platforms are an easy and affordable way to create a will from home. It gives you the freedom to make a will quickly at any time with the benefit of having a guided platform to ensure you do not miss anything. Another alternative is will kits which are typically fill-in-the-blank templates. These are best for individuals who have simple wishes and assets. However, if you have a more complicated situation such as multiple assets or very specific wishes, it may be best to explore other options. Finally, although it’s not necessary in Ontario to have a lawyer, lawyer-drafted wills are beneficial if you need legal advice. If you have multiple estates or unique clauses that you would like to include in your last will and testament, seeking legal advice is your best option.
It is never too early to create a legal will in Ontario. You can feel confident in creating a will yourself as long as you’ve met all the criteria or consult our family law legal team for expert advice!