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Wills & Estate Law

Why make a Will?

If you do not have one your estate will be divided according to provincial intestacy laws, which may not reflect your wishes.

Property would pass to your next of kin without regard for your fondness for certain people, and not to non-blood relatives, your common-law spouse or charities.

With a Will, you maintain the freedom to benefit those as you please, for the most part.

  1. You will have the freedom to choose a guardian (custodian) for your minor children, a trustee of their money and specify at which age they will receive their inheritance.

  2. If you marry, your Will is automatically revoked unless it specifies that it is made in contemplation of a forthcoming marriage. If you are married but separated, your estranged spouse may inherit your share of the family property unless your Will or a separation agreement states otherwise.

  3. It is less expensive for your beneficiaries if you have a Will. If you do not, an Estate Trustee (the manager of your estate) will have to be appointed by the court and may be required to post a bond.  Appointing a Trustee in a Will may reduce the potential for disagreements between beneficiaries.

Not all property passes by operation of a Will. Some pass by contract or by the operation of law. For example, jointly owned property (such as a house held in Joint Tenancy), or bank accounts, GICs, life insurance proceeds, registered RSPs, RIFs, and pensions payable to a designated individual, pass directly to the beneficiaries named in those documents.

The Will “speaks” from the time of death, so you may change a disposition, and deal with it as you please while alive.

You may leave your beneficiaries certain percentages and/or specific gifts (bequests) of property and/or money.

Provincial laws may apply to limit what you can do with your property. Your spouse may make a claim for a division of property or to take what is given to him/her in the Will.

Children and spouses may claim to be “dependants”.

“Dependents” may include: your spouse, common law spouse, former spouse, children (including those born out of wedlock or born after your death) and a person you treated as a child of your family (stepchildren), a parent, sibling to whom you were supporting or have a legal obligation to support.

You must make adequate provision for them, just as you would when alive.  If you fail to make adequate provision, the court may order the estate to make payments to some or all of them in an amount it sees fit.

Children: You cannot give your children away as if they were property. You may however, appoint a guardian of the child’s person (custody) and a guardian of his property. The Court may determine whether it is in the child’s best interest to live with the custodian appointed by the Will. Accordingly, the appointment of a guardian under the Will is only valid for 90 days after death, or later if the appointee makes an application for an extension.

Gifts or inheritances received by one spouse are not considered family property upon separation. But the income therefrom is, unless specified in the Will that all capital and income from the bequest is not to be considered “community of property” (i.e. property to be shared by separating spouses).

Who gets what if you die without a Will?

Under the Succession Law Reform Act, the spouse receives the first $200,000.00 of the net value of the estate. If there is one child, he/she also gets ½ of the residue, and the child gets the other half. If there is more than one child, the spouse gets the first $200,000.00 and 1/3 of the remainder and the children share equally the other 2/3.

Your lawyer may provide a complimentary Will if retained to do your separation agreement or divorce.