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Wills in Canada: What's important to know

No one likes to think about their own mortality.About one half of adult population in Canada dies without a will.

However, some consideration should be given to what happens to assets upon an individual's death. If there is not a valid will, family members would have the burden and emotional stress of potentially complicated legal proceedings to determine who is entitled to what portion of the estate.

Those living in common law relationships may not be entitled to receive from their partner's estate unless the partner left a will. In Ontario, a legally married spouse of a deceased individual receives the first $200,000 ("preferential share") of the estate and shares the remaining amounts, if any, with the children of the deceased. The common law spouse does not have the same rights to inherit.

Wills should also name estate trustees (executors) who administer the estate. Without a will a wrong person may end in charge of the estate.

A power of attorney for property and a power of attorney for personal care ('living will") are also important to have. Power of attorney for property appoints someone to manage the property of the owner when the owner is unable to do this. Power of attorney for personal care stipulates the wishes regarding health care (such as a "do not resuscitate" directive).

Wills and other estate planning documents should be kept in a safe place such as a safety deposit box. 

A lawyer in Ontario with experience in wills and estates law will help clients prepare their wills and other instruments dealing with the administration and disposition of their property. An experienced estate lawyer could also offer advice as to what should be included in a will or will be helpful in updating the documents as life situation changes.

Source: canadianfamily.ca, "7 Things You Need to Know About Making a Will", Accessed on Nov. 24, 2017

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