People sometimes ask if their Last Will and Testament comes with an expiration date. Do you need to fill out a new Will if at any time the old one expires? While the answer to that question is no, it is always a good idea to change your Will as you see fit. Life changes and your Will should change along with it. There are numerous reasons as to why you would want to change your Will including: a birth or death in the family, a new job which causes you to move from your old location, receiving a new inheritance, or anything major which causes changes to your life.

Some people ask if they can simply input certain hand-written lines into their Last Will and Testament, which is really not a good idea simply for the fact that a hand-written notation scribbled on the side of a Last Will can cause confusion for your Executor or loved ones. If you hand-write an amendment to your Will it may invalidate other parts of your Will. Or it just may be confusing to read, or even not considered as a legally-binding aspect of your Will.

If you want to make changes to your Will, having an entirely brand-new Will drafted up is best.

That brings up another question about Wills: what happens to the previous Will you created? When you create a brand-new Will, any Will that was created prior to that is rendered null and void. There is usually a clause specifying this in the Will and this clears up any confusion between the new and old Will you have just created. In order to ensure that copies of your old and new Will don’t get mixed up, you may want to either shred or burn the old document, which includes both signed and unsigned copies of the Will. That also includes making sure that neither your Executor nor your loved ones have any copies of the old Will.

One thing to be certain of when you start drafting up your new Will is to ensure that your Executor and loved ones all know about the new copy. There are infamous cases of squabbling over money once a person dies and contentious courtroom battles over a person’s assets. Even if you believe that you don’t own much, you still want to make sure that there is enough for your family or loved ones to be looked after, don’t you?

Last week, we wrote about the importance of choosing a Guardian . This week, we are writing about the importance of choosing an Executor and all that entails. An Executor is someone appointed by you to look after your estate and assets after your death. Just as choosing a Guardian can be a difficult choice, choosing an Executor for your Last Will and Testament can be hard. Before selecting someone to be your Executor, however, consider what an Executor does:

  • The role of Executor can be complex and time consuming: the Executor secures the assets and estate of the person who has died (in other words, the Executor looks after all of your stuff when you are not around anymore and takes inventory).
  • The Executor has to make sure that your assets (particularly heirlooms and antiques) are properly appraised and evaluated (i.e. find out how much these items are worth). See this real-life example.
  • Paying off any debts you owe : this is a huge part of why a Will is so important. When you do not have a Will in place, that means that your estate has to pay extra legal fees to hire a lawyer to figure out to where all your things go.
  • Make funeral arrangements – sounds like an easy task but comes with emotional baggage and extra financial costs which are taken from the estate.
  • Forwarding mail, canceling subscriptions, etc. In order to cancel mail or subscriptions the Executor has to provide proof through a death certificate.

Those are just SOME of the tasks an Executor has to take care of. Which is why you should consider the following when it comes down to CHOOSING the Executor for your Last Will and Testament :

  • Is this person up for the task? Given the administrative, legal and financial headaches the role of an Executor can bring (on top of having a full time job), does this person have the ability and time to take on this role?
  • Where does this person live? Consider the fact that if you choose a sibling or parent to take on this role, does he or she live in the same province? If the answer is no, are there special requirements or paperwork for that person to fill?
  • Who can you trust to be impartial? Who will follow your wishes? Does this person whom you have chosen to be your Executor have a stake in your Will? Is their judgement skewed in favour of him or her getting more of your estate because of all the extra work they are taking on in their role as Executor?
  • Does the Executor get paid from your Estate? What provincial laws are there regarding this?
  • If you use an independent third-party to be your Executor, such as a bank or a lawyer, how much comes out of your Estate to pay that independent third party? Can you trust this third party to be neutral? See this $4 billion costly mistake JP Morgan made.
  • Just like a Guardian, consider the fact that the person who is not chosen as Executor may take offense.

Some of the most common choices for appointing someone to be an Executor tend to be a spouse, adult child, parent or sibling. This is particularly true in situations where such individuals will be the ultimate beneficiaries of the Estate.

Choosing someone to look after your children when you are gone is obviously a tough decision. Appointing a Guardian in your Will can be one of the toughest decisions to make, and it is not as simple as just choosing mom, dad or a family member to be Guardian of your children. There are many aspects to consider when it comes to appointing a Guardian.  Here are some important issues to consider about selecting a Guardian:

  • Will your spouse be onboard with your choice for Guardian? What happens if you and your spouse sit down to do a Last Will and Testament only to discover that you each want to choose your own set of parents to be Guardians for your children?
  • Will your Guardian outlive you? Many people may choose their own parents as Guardians for their children, but you also have to consider the fact that your own parents may not outlive you. If that is the case, who is really the ideal person to look after your children?
  • If mom and dad are not the best choices as suitable Guardians, you may want to look at family members, such as brothers or sisters to look after your children. Is that something your spouse would want?
  • If you were to choose a relative to look after your children, would your spouse find that person a suitable candidate?
  • Consider what would happen if you picked one person to be Guardian over another, would that offend someone else? Even though you might offend someone, at the end of the day you have to do what is right and choose the person who would be best suited to look after your kids.
  • Does your choice of Guardian have the same religious, cultural and even dietary values as you? Does your Guardian get along well with your children?

These are the biggest questions to consider. It is always best to sit down and have a talk with your spouse before anything is written up or documented in a Will. When you do decide to draft your Last Will and Testament, consider the fact that FormalWill has a system where you can appoint a Guardian and alternate Guardians for your children in your Will. That way you can be assured that there is always someone there to look after your children in the event  that one of your selections for a Guardian are unable to.

Intestacy is dying without a Last Will and Testament. Have you considered what would happen if you died intestate? What would happen to your estate?

Intestacy usually operates as follows (this varies by province or territory):

  • Everything passes on to the spouse and/or children
  • If the deceased had no children, everything passes on to the parents
  • In the event the parents have passed away, everything passes on to the siblings of the deceased
  • In the event no one is left, the government may acquire the remaining assets and estate

You can see where this issue grows complex especially if you have a common-in-law spouse, step parents, siblings and so on. How will a person’s estate and assets be divided up by the courts if you do not have a Will? Even if you believe that your estate and assets are too small to be worth something, the chances are that you at least own some property such as a house, car or have some money in the bank.

Putting a Will in place ensures that your assets and estate go to the people you would prefer.  With a Will you can also make charitable donations and leave things to close friends.  Moreover, what about the pressing issue of a Guardian? Who will raise and look after your children if you are not there?  Importantly, a Will allows you to name the precise people you would trust with being Guardians for your children.

If you still assume everything is going to be fine after you die intestate, the courts still have to step in and administer where all of your stuff goes. That costs money, which will come out of what is left of your estate.   Dealing with an estate where there is no Will is more expensive in terms of legal costs, more complicated, and time-consuming.  

Don’t let your Estate get caught up in expensive, complicated, and lengthy court hearings by not completing your Last Will and Testament.   

If you have a Last Will and Testament (or are thinking about drafting one), then you may be wondering when and how you would go about updating it. People generally think about getting a Will during the biggest changes of their lives. Typically, one would assume that the very first Last Will and Testament a person creates is going to need updates down the road as their life changes. People marry, divorce, have multiple children, etc. and all of those type of changes in a person’s life need to be reflected in a Last Will and Testament. How does one update their Will when necessary?

There are two options to update your Will. One way is to create an entirely brand new Last Will and Testament. The second option is to create a Codicil (an amendment) to your Last Will and Testament. A Codicil would have to be dated, signed and attached to the Will so your Executor knows when the Codicil was created. A Codicil would have to fit seamlessly with the other sections of your Will and avoid any conflicting language. Although some may view a Codicil to be satisfactory for small changes (i.e. changing the amount of money you want to give to a specific person or to a charity), it is generally much better to create a new Last Will and Testament so there is absolutely no confusion or conflict between a Will and a Codicil. This is particularly true if you wish to make multiple changes to your Will.

The good news is that through the use of online Will software, you can create a new Will with the changes you want to it without having to pay for a brand-new Will through a lawyer. Bottom line: Avoid confusion by editing your Will through Will software.

You know about the importance of a Legal Will. You put off thinking about completing your Will, believing that it is something you need to think about later. Or you may also put off drafting a Last Will and Testament because it is too complex and you just do not have the time (or do not want) to think about it.

A simple explanation of a Last Will and Testament is that it is a legal document directing where all of your assets (gifts, charitable donations, etc.) go when you die. Your assets could go to specific individuals or to various organizations, such as charities. While this is a necessary and important document to have, it is estimated that at least 50% of adults do not have one. There are a number of reasons as to why people may not have one, such as: the time it takes to see a lawyer, the cost of seeing a lawyer, or just procrastination. Money and time are often huge factors in putting off a Last Will and Testament. There are, however, inexpensive alternatives to seeing a lawyer. These options include: a) an online Will, b) a holographic Will, or c) a Will kit.

We have previously written about the advantages of creating an online Legal Will; an online Legal Will provides you with the advantage of creating a document through Will software, which is a cheaper and less time consuming alternative to seeing a lawyer. The option to use online Wills are recommended if you do not have a complex estate. It is a preferable method to using a holographic, hand-written Will. An online Will uses technology that guides you through the process the process of creating a Will and reminds you of the important things to include in your Will. If you draw up a hand-written Last Will and Testament, chances are that you will be leaving out many legal issues that need to be addressed.

What is the difference between an Online Will and a Will kit?

So you might ask yourself, what is the difference between an online Will and option c, a Will kit? A Will kit is just that, it is usually a “kit” that you can purchase through a store, and it consists of papers to guide you through the process of creating a Last Will and Testament. The difficulty is that, unlike using online Wills or Will software, a Will kit may not be up to date and additionally, it does not have the benefit of technology that guides you through the process.

It is always best to have a guide through the process of creating a Will. 

online will

You’re most likely familiar with the basics of what a Last Will and Testament is: it is a legal document which ensures that your loved ones are taken care of if anything happens to you.  An online Will (sometimes also known as an online will form) eliminates the need for a lawyer by providing you with the guidance and knowledge you require to complete your Will from your home.

Making a Will online allows you to create your Will by using a will form which guides you through a series of questions and produces your Will for you.  You then print out your Will and follow proper steps regarding witnessing, signing and storage.

One of the great things about online Wills is that you can usually log back in and change your Will easily if your circumstances change.  For example, if you want to change your appointed Executor you can simply log back in to your online Will account, change your Executor, and print out a new Will for signing.  This is much more cost-effective, faster, and efficient than going back to see a lawyer to make a change to your Will.

If you feel that you can answer some straightforward questions and do not require the guidance of a lawyer, then an online Will would work for you. A Will created online carries the same weight as a document created by a lawyer, provided that it follows the same basic required steps (for example, being witnessed and signed by independent witnesses). There is no legal requirement that a lawyer witness or write up your Will.

An online Will would work for you if your estate is fairly straightforward and you do not have complex issues to deal with (e.g. property scattered in several jurisdictions, a multi-million dollar estate, etc.) that may be better dealt with through a lawyer rather than through an online Will form. When you create and print out your online Will, you simply sign off with some independent witnesses and you have completed your Legal Will.



last will and testament

You probably are no doubt aware of the term “Last Will and Testament.” Everyone is, right? Most people know the name of the document, even if they aren’t aware of exactly what goes into it.  A simple explanation of a Last Will and Testament is that it is a legal document administering all of your assets (gifts, charitable donations, etc.) to individuals and organizations whom you choose to receive such items upon your death. However, it is a much more complex document than simply writing out where and to whom you want your assets to go.

A valid Last Will and Testament has a clause specifying that the new Will you have created invalidates any previous Last Will and Testaments. It also mentions that the Testator (the person making the Will) designates his or her assets (e.g. house, jewellery, everything in his/her name) to go to specific individuals of his/her choosing and names those individuals. Specific gifts to various individuals and funds for charitable donations may be listed as well. The issue of Guardianship for minor children is a vital point in any Last Will and Testament. Finally, to render the Will valid, the Testator must follow instructions and properly sign and date the Will in the correct place. The independent witnesses should follow the Testator’s example and also sign and witness in the correct place.

A Will should not be confused with a Living Will document.  A Living Will is a legal document relating to your health and well-being while you are alive. If something happens to you and you have a Living Will in place, that document ensures that you are properly looked after in accordance to your wishes. A Power of Attorney, likewise, is another legal document people sometimes confuse with a Last Will and Testament. A Power of Attorney document ensures that while you are alive, another person that you have appointed (your “attorney”) can take care of your financial assets or real estate. Neither of these two documents should be confused with a Last Will and Testament, which comes into effect only upon death.  Once you create your Will, you should consider completing your Estate Plan by creating a Power of Attorney and a Living Will. Going back to the original topic at hand, what is a Will?

Many adults often put off writing their Last Will and Testament and recent statistics suggest that at least 50% of adults don’t have a Will in place. That means that if something happens to you (e.g. you end up in a common car accident) all of your assets and items (e.g. your house, car, jewellery, funds, nice cottage by the lake), could be inherited by the wrong people. You may argue that this type of scenario will not happen to you as you have a simple estate and not many assets, but the reality is that the courts may decide where your assets end up going if you have not created your Will.

Do you ever fantasize about inheriting millions of dollars from a long-lost uncle and then retiring to a tropical paradise? That’s the fantasy but what is the reality? Assuming your long lost relative has more money than brains, what’s the craziest thing you could inherit? What if you receive something you don’t want? What do you do with it then?

 The top five list below showcases some of the weirdest items left behind in a Last Will and Testament (and alas, none of these beneficiaries presumably were able to just lie about on a sunny beach somewhere).

1. Cringeworthy

This one is a story that will make your skin crawl: in 1871, a man named Solomon Sandborn donated his body to science after his death. Sounds like a worthwhile gesture, doesn’t it? There’s a part in his Last Will that ordered his body to be skinned and made into a set of drums for his friend. The “friend” in turn, was ordered to take the drums up to Bunker Hill, Massachusetts every June 17th at dawn and drum out “Yankee Doodle Dandle.”  Solomon was apparently a patriot who wanted to celebrate the anniversary of the “Battle at Bunker Hill” posthumously.  We’re wondering how enthusiastic the “friend” was and if he ever fulfilled Solomon’s last wishes.

2. Dead Turtles

Just what in the world are you supposed to do with a family of dead turtles? That’s the question that reporter Lois Collins asked herself when she inherited a bunch of dead turtles from her late mother-in-law. Did Collins’ mother-in-law hate her in some way that she just didn’t know about? Collins’ was also told that she should take good care of the turtles so that she could pass them on to her children when they were grown. Collins is probably STILL left wondering why her mother-in-law passed on the dead reptilians to her, and is probably facing some unwanted questions about death. This bequest sure beats money, doesn’t it?

3. Creepy Red Roses

Every woman loves to get beautiful, long-stem roses from the man she loves, but some would argue that this next story is slightly creepy. A comedian by the name of Jack Benny succumbed to cancer in 1974, but not before letting the love of his life know just how much he loved her. Each day for the rest of her life after his passing she received one long red rose everyday. A seemingly romantic gesture, it may be a bit overboard, especially if his wife ever remarried. What do you think?  Creepy or romantic?


4. Do ghosts eat?

This is a story about a rich eccentric millionaire: obsessed with the paranormal and the afterlife after his wife and two daughters passed away, John Porter Bowman stipulated in his Last Will and Testament that a $50,000 Trust be setup after his death. The money was to look after his lavish (and empty) 21-room mansion, along with dinner to be served each night in case Bowman ever returned with his wife and daughters. We’re guessing that the ghostly trio never returned, and the dinners stopped as soon as the trust ran out.

5. The Baby “Derby”

Known as the Baby “Derby,” a race among the women of Toronto to have the most children caught the city’s attention after the death of Charles Millar (presumably another eccentric millionaire with too much time on his hands). Millar, who died in 1928, announced that the woman who gave birth to the most children after his death in the preceding 10 years, would be the winner of a good chunk of his sizable assets and estate. In 1938, the City of Toronto announced four winners: four mothers, each with nine children. The winners all received a grand total of $568,106 to be split among the four winners. A prize of $12,500 was doled out to the runner ups.

There you have it! Five of the strangest items you can find in a Last Will and Testament. You probably wouldn’t want to get any of the above listed items nor would you want to be an Executor for any of the people listed above. Think we’ll pass on these: we’re still hoping for the rich uncle to give us a fortune and sip margaritas on the beach!