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November is Make a Will Month 

The month of November is “Make a Will Month” in Ontario. Over half of Ontarians do not have a will of any kind in place, and for that reason the Ontario Bar Association has dedicated an annual public awareness campaign to educate Ontarians about the importance of making a will and keeping that will up to date. 

Why do I need a will? 

By creating a will, you will be able to choose the person responsible for managing your estate – this is your estate trustee, also commonly referred to as an executor. You will also be able to choose the beneficiaries of your estate by directing how and to whom your assets are distributed. Significantly, having a will often saves your loved ones from paying unnecessary taxes and expenses, and from encountering any unnecessary delays in the administration of your estate. 

What are the contents of a will? 

In addition to appointing your estate trustee and designating the beneficiaries of your estate, your will can also establish trusts for minor or disabled beneficiaries, appoint a temporary guardian for your minor children, and make charitable gifts. If you are a business owner, you can create a secondary will to govern the transfer of your corporate shares to both reduce estate administration taxes and to ensure that your business succession plan is in order. 

How can I make a valid will? 

In order to be valid in Ontario, a will must meet the following requirements as detailed in the Succession Law Reform Act: 

  1. It must be made in writing; 
  2. It must be signed at the end by the testator (or by some other person in his or her presence, at his or her direction); 
  3. It must be signed by the testator in the presence of 2 witnesses present at the same time; and 
  4. The 2 witnesses must sign the will in the presence of the testator. 

Wills can be very simple or more complex depending on the type of assets you own and how you wish to pass those assets to your beneficiaries. For that reason, it is important to obtain proper advice about how best to structure your estate plan. 

The Wills, Estates and Trust Department at McKenzie Lake LLP offers a wide range of services from the preparation of simple wills to more complex estate and trust planning, along with the preparation of trusts and guardianship applications. We also assist estate trustees and family members to navigate the process of the administration of estates, and pursue estate litigation matters as required. 

Throughout the month of November we will be sharing more information about the importance of having a will and the considerations that go into formulating an estate plan that is appropriate for your needs. 

If you do not have a will, or if your will is outdated, please contact a member of our department to schedule an appointment to discuss your estate planning needs. 

This article was written by Wills, Estates and Trusts Lawyers Jennifer Butkus and Jillian Berry.