Estates Lawyer


Making a Will

Your Will is probably the most important document that you will sign in your lifetime. It is best to consult with a lawyer.  Make a list of It every item that you own or in which you have an interest.  Your Will should set out when and how people may be receiving valuable items many years into the future. It is your last direction and thus should be taken very seriously.

Former Will

It is most helpful if you can provide a copy of your previous will. However, there will be a clause in your new will that revokes all former wills. We would like to receive a copy of your former will at the same time that we receive your instructions with respect to your new will.

Your Executors

The executor you choose is a person in whom you have confidence and who is prepared to, and will be able to, carry out your instructions responsibly whenever the need may arise. You may choose one or more executors. You may choose them in the alternative or to act jointly. You can set out how decisions will be made if there is a difference of opinion (for example by majority of executors).

If something should occur to make the executor unable or unwilling to continue to act, your alternative may come forward, or another person may be appointed by them or through their will.

Typical Items In an Estate

1. Insurance Policies

Insurance policies are not payable until your death. Thus, they are not part of your estate unless you direct them to be dealt with as part of your estate. You may have chosen beneficiaries and named them on the policy. Please note that in the small area setting out the beneficiaries on an insurance policy, you are not describing how the funds are to be held or when a person would receive. They would automatically receive the total balance at 18 years of age. Thus, a will, through its various trust provisions, often carries out your wishes in a more appropriate manner. You may wish to have all of your insurance policies reviewed and made payable to your estate after completion of the will.

2. Registered Retirement Savings Plans and Other Beneficiary Plans

Even though there may be some reference to transferring these benefits to your estate, you should, in any event, for a guarantee that your wishes will be reflected, make the appropriate changes in the named beneficiary of any RRSP or other plan such that you name your estate, unless you specifically wish to name an individual beneficiary who would receive other than through the estate.

3. Real Estate

Your interests in land may be held in your name only. If so, they would form part of the estate. You may be holding land as "joint tenants." By definition, this is an arrangement whereby the survivor of yourself and the other joint tenant will receive all of the interest in the land. Your estate would receive none of the interest.

You may be holding land as "tenants in common." By definition, your estate would step forward and claim the interest that you had while you were alive. The property would probably have to be sold or else the other persons buy the property out from your estate at the proportionate fairmarket value of your interest.

4. Personal Property

This refers to all other property not defined. If could include vehicles, registered retirement savings plans, boats, furniture, stocks, bonds, or other forms of money.

Methods Of Giving Property

1. Specific Gift

You may choose to give a specific identified item to a specific individual. You may choose to do this in the will which would make your request legally binding. You may maintain some forms of notes, memoranda, or attachments of persons' names to specific items. If you take the second approach, your directions may not be legally binding but most likely your other beneficiaries and trustees would approve and consent to the gifts being given as you have directed.

2. Life Interest

You may allow one individual (for example your spouse) to use a specific item for his or her lifetime. Upon his or her demise, that item would then form part of your estate to be dealt with pursuant to your instructions regarding the remainder of your estate.

3. Dividing Property Among Various Interests

You may give a specific interest or individual either by setting out a precise amount, which they are to receive, or by directing that they receive a percentage of your entire estate. A specific amount determined at this point in time may be totally out of proportion with the intentions unless you continually update your will. Ten or twenty years from now, the value given may be very minimal due to inflation or other factors.

4. Gifts to the Direct Descendants of Your First Choice

You may wish to leave something to a child or other specific individual. However, something may have occurred to that individual. You may direct that the individual's children receive his or her share in equal proportions.

5. Gifts to a Group

If you set out that each of your children were to receive a specific proportion of your estate, then the division may be made immediately upon your death. However, it may be more appropriate to have the trust set up for all of the children and allow the trustee to pay out monies proportionate to the needs of each of the children. Once the last child reaches the age at which the remainder in that trust must be divided, it will be divided amongst all of the children and all monies would be paid out according to the discretion of your trustee.

6. Age Children to Receive

Unless you direct otherwise, each child would receive some of the estate according to that child's needs and the discretion of your trustee. However, without a specific direction, you child would receive all of the balance of the estate at age 18. This may be a large sum of money which may not be handled well at the time. It may be preferable to pick a specific age, such as 21 years or 25 years, where the child would receive the balance. You may wish to have the remainder paid out in two lumps a few years apart. That would give the children opportunity to deal with the money the first time and then perhaps to deal with it even better on the second occasion.

Other FAQs

What do I do about legal Guardianship of my children?:

You may make your suggestions as to where it would be in the best interests of the children to live. We should set out the reasons for your conclusions in a brief fashion. Although this is not legally binding, a Court would review your wishes and take those into consideration in making the final determination.

What about body donations?;

You may choose to donate your eyes, or other specific organs. You may simply set out that whatever parts can be used for therapeutic purposes may be taken. Your executor should be aware of your wishes in this regard so that directions could be given to a hospital or medical personal at the earliest time possible. 

Funeral and BurialYou may set out some directions regarding your funeral, such as open or closed casket. You may ask to be buried at a certain place or you could ask for cremation. Although these paragraphs are not legally binding, they are of great help to the persons making the arrangements. 

Can I include additional Clauses?;

There would of course be some additional clauses which could be put into the will and described to you have  had an opportunity to review them. This would be done prior to your execution of the will.