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Comprehensive Guide to Making a Will Without a Lawyer

Writing a will is a crucial step in ensuring your assets and personal effects are distributed according to your wishes after you’re gone. Although many people hire a lawyer to help draft their wills, it’s entirely possible to create one without legal assistance in Canada. However, making sure the will is valid and legally enforceable requires careful attention. This comprehensive guide may help you. Let’s walk through the process step by step.

Understanding the Basics of a Will

A will is a legal document that spells out how you’d like your assets and personal effects distributed after your death. In Canada, requirements for a valid will may vary slightly between provinces, but there are some common elements:

  • Testator: The person making the will. You need to be of legal age (typically 18 or 19, depending on the province) and of sound mind.
  • Beneficiaries: The individuals or entities who will receive your assets or properties.
  • Executor: The person or institution you designate to ensure the wishes in your will are carried out. This role can be demanding, so it’s essential to choose someone trustworthy.

2. Deciding What to Include

Before you start writing, you’ll want to make a list of your assets and decide who should receive them. A comprehensive Will should include a thorough review of your assets. Assets can include:

  • Real estate properties
  • Financial assets (bank accounts, stocks, bonds)
  • Personal property (jewelry, art, vehicles)
  • Digital assets (websites, digital currencies)

It’s also essential to think about who will care for your minor children, if applicable. Naming a guardian is an integral part of a will for parents.

3. Choosing the Right Format

There are three main types of wills in Canada:

  • Formal Will: Written, usually typed, and signed in the presence of at least two witnesses who also sign the document. This is the most common type.
  • Holograph Will: Handwritten and signed by the testator without the need for witnesses. Not all provinces recognize this format, so it’s vital to check local regulations.
  • Notarial Will: Mostly used in Quebec, this is a special type of will written and signed in front of a notary.

For most Canadians, the formal will is the most applicable. It’s crucial to ensure your will is consistent with the regulations of the province you reside in.

4. Drafting the Will

Now, onto the actual writing. Make sure to:

  • Clearly Identify Yourself: Begin with a statement like, “This is the last will and testament of [Your Full Name], of [Your Address].”
  • Revoke Previous Wills: State that you’re revoking all previously made wills and codicils (amendments to earlier wills).
  • Detail Asset Distribution: Clearly specify which assets go to which beneficiaries. Avoid ambiguity.
  • Name an Executor: Clearly state who this person is and, if possible, a backup in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to act.
  • Consider Funeral Arrangements: Though not mandatory, including wishes for funeral arrangements can be helpful.
  • Guardian for Minor Children: If applicable, designate a trusted individual.
  • Include a Residual Clause: This takes care of any assets you might have missed. It can read something like, “All remaining assets I give to [Beneficiary’s Name].”

5. Signing and Witnessing

Once you’ve drafted the will:

  • Sign in the Presence of Witnesses: You and typically at least two witnesses should sign the will. Witnesses should not be beneficiaries or spouses of beneficiaries.
  • Initial Every Page: This ensures that no pages are replaced or added later without consent.

6. Storing the Will

Keep your will in a safe, accessible place. Inform your executor about its location. Some choose to store it with a trusted family member, in a safe deposit box, or even with their bank.

7. Regularly Update Your Will

To ensure that your Last Will is as comprehensive as possible, make sure that you review your Will when there are major life changes. Regularly review and update your will, especially after significant life events like marriages, births, deaths, or major purchases.

8. Pros and Cons of a DIY Will


  • Cost-effective: Avoid legal fees.
  • Flexibility: Adjust it at your pace and convenience.


  • Complexity: If you have a substantial estate or complicated family situation, DIY might not be ideal.

Creating a Will without a lawyer in Canada is feasible, but it’s essential to follow the necessary steps carefully to ensure your Will is legally valid. Being methodical, double-checking provincial regulations, and considering a legal review can help provide peace of mind that your last wishes will be honored. We hope you have found this comprehensive article useful.