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How to Write a Will Without a Lawyer – Formalwill

Can you write a Last Will without a lawyer? Absolutely. This article dives straight into the key steps for learning how to write a Will without a lawyer. We’ll help you discover the requirements that must be met, the options available for DIY Will-writing, and crucial tips for ensuring your Will’s reflection of your wishes. We’ll help you navigate through the process with confidence and ensure your final testament stands on its own merit.

Key Takeaways

  • A legally binding Will ensures that your estate is distributed according to your wishes. In order to do this, the Will should be valid (two independent witnesses should sign the Will) and it should also be signed and dated by you.
  • DIY estate planning tools, such as online will platforms and Will kits, offer attorney-built, provincial-specific options for creating a Will. You don’t need a lawyer. The online process should guide you through the process of creating a Will.
  • Regularly updating your Will is crucial to reflect your life’s changes.
  • You may require legal advice for complex estates, special needs beneficiaries, etc. If you feel that a Will is something you can’t complete on your own, you may seek out the advice of a lawyer.

Understanding the Basics of a Legal Will

A legal Will is the cornerstone of estate planning: it’s pivotal in ensuring that your estate is distributed according to your final wishes. Be sure to keep the most updated version of your Will.

Even though regions like British Columbia have adopted digital Wills, many provinces still insist on the traditionally signed documents. Ultimately, this document serves as a reflection of your life, safeguarding your family and assets within the framework of your Will.

Essential Steps Before Writing Your Own Will

The journey of estate planning starts with:

  1. Gathering all of the proper legal documents, relating to your debts, estate, and assets
  1. Understanding what makes a Will legal (this usually includes two independent witnesses)
  1. Understanding the complexity of your estate (do you need a lawyer to help you with your Will, or can you make a Will on your own?)
  1. The Will should only be created while you are of sound mind. 

Evaluate Your Estate’s Complexity

A simple estate can be done through a DIY Will, but for those with a more complex portfolio of assets and debts, family dynamics, or assets scattered across multiple locations, you may require legal advice from a lawyer. Doing up your Will can be like assembling pieces of a puzzle.

Comprehend Laws

The legal tapestry of each province/territory weaves its own set of rules for Will creation. Legally valid Wills require adherence to the rules surrounding proper witnessing, signing, and storage. Most provinces call for at least two independent witnesses to validate their Wills. Notarization can, in certain cases, streamline the later stages of the estate planning process, but notarization for a Will is not necessary.

Confirming Legal Capacity

Asserting that you are of sound mind when the Will is drafted, it’s a declaration of your wishes in written form. This ensures that your estate planning documents are legally binding and that the decisions you’ve made are a true reflection of your wishes; when you draft up your Will, you want to be sure that you’re making your own decisions and are free from anyone else interfering with you make the choices that you have made in your Will.

Selecting Tools and Resources to Write Your Will Without a Lawyer

In today’s digital era, numerous tools are available for drafting a legal last will. From online Will platforms to DIY will kits, there are a vast number of resources available to guide you through the estate planning process with ease. The key is to select a service that offers attorney-built, state-specific documents, which ensures that the legal language of your Will meets all of the necessary legal standards.

Do-It-Yourself Will Kits

If you prefer a hands-on approach to charting your legacy, DIY Will kits provide a concrete solution for estate planning. These low-cost kits provide structured templates and can guide you through the process of the Will, which can be tailored to your situation. 

Designating Guardians and Executors

Choosing a Guardian for Minor Children when Writing a Will without a Lawyer - Formalwill

A Will goes beyond being a mere inventory of assets; it serves as a shield for the future of your family. Designating guardians for minor children ensures they are cared for by someone who shares your values. Likewise, appointing a trustworthy executor means your estate will be managed as you intended, preventing the probate court from making these crucial decisions on your behalf.

Choosing a Guardian for Minor Children

Who can provide your children with the same love and guidance as you? Selecting a guardian is a decision that resonates beyond your lifetime. Consider the type of parenting skills, financial stability, and the values of the potential guardians for your minor children you are looking at. 

You may also want to consider the possibility of alternate guardians, who can take up the role if the first option isn’t available. 

Appointing Your Executor

The executor is the steward of your last wishes, charged with the task of bringing your estate planning documents to fruition. Don’t forget to designate a person to carry out your funeral wishes, ensuring your send-off reflects your life.

You may also want to choose an alternate executor, who can take up the role if the first executor isn’t available. 

Listing Assets and Assigning Beneficiaries

Listing Assets and Assigning Beneficiaries in a DIY Will

An exhaustive inventory of all your assets constitutes the foundation of your last will and testament. From personal belongings to retirement accounts, each asset warrants a beneficiary, be it a family member, a friend, or a charitable cause. Consider naming a residuary beneficiary for any unclaimed assets.

Inventory of Personal Belongings and Real Property

Dive into the details of your life’s accumulation:

  • Personal belongings
  • Vehicles
  • Real property
  • Bank accounts

All of these should be cataloged with precision. You can create an inventory list of all of your assets. Clear descriptions of each item serve as beacons for your executor, guiding them to administer your assets as you envisioned. You can list them all in an “inventory list” for your executor to find. 

Determining Beneficiaries for Each Asset

Your legacy can shape lives long after you’re gone. Assigning beneficiaries for each asset is a thoughtful (and maybe a drawn-out) process. For beneficiaries with special needs, you may wish to seek legal guidance.

Incorporating Special Wishes and Instructions

Your Will can echo your preferences to your loved ones: your funeral wishes and pet care plans are separate from the Will itself. 

Funeral and Memorial Preferences

Funeral planning can be an emotionally charged task for loved ones. Your detailed list of funeral wishes, from how you want to be buried, to the type of ceremony you want, can ease the burden and ensure your send-off is as unique as your life was.

Providing for Pets and Heirlooms

Pets are family. Appointing caretakers and allocating funds for pet care ensures your furry companions continue to receive love and attention. This can be done through Pet Wills, such as the ones offered through 

Likewise, a clear plan for pets can also provide peace of mind and preserve your legacy.

Finalizing and Safeguarding Your Will

Finalizing and Safeguarding Your Will without a Lawyer

The completion of your last Will does not signify the end of the estate planning process. To cross the finish line, your Will must be signed and witnessed, and then stored in a place that’s both safe and known to your loved ones.

Signing and Witnessing Requirements

Your signature is the seal of your intent. This solidifies the legality of the Will. That, and two witnesses to sign and date the Will in specific areas of the document. 

Storing Your Will in a Safe Place

Securely store your signed and witnessed legal Will in a fireproof box or a safety deposit box, and ensure your executor and family members know its location.

For residents of British Columbia, you have the option of using a Will registry offered through the government.

When to Consider Professional Advice

Even the most meticulous of individuals can run into complications that complicate the process of estate planning. If your situation is something that you feel you can’t do on your own, you may want to seek out the advice of a lawyer. A lawyer’s expertise can help to navigate complex estates and legal concerns, and ensure that your estate is distributed as you intended. However, if your situation is pretty straightforward, and you don’t need a lawyer, you may be able to do it on your own, through a DIY Will kit or an online platform. 

Updates and Revisions

Life is a tapestry of change, and your Will should reflect that. Regularly revisiting and updating your Will ensures it aligns with your current circumstances and wishes. Even without major life changes, you may wish to revise (or at least revisit) your Will periodically. 


Crafting your own Will is a deeply personal and empowering process. With the tools and knowledge outlined here, you can ensure your final wishes are preserved and your legacy honored. Remember, the key to a sturdy estate plan is attention to detail, clear communication, and the occasional guidance from legal professionals. Take this step-by-step guide and begin penning your estate.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to make a will in Canada?

Making a will with a lawyer in Canada can cost an average of $624, as reported in the 2021 Legal Fees survey. It’s important to consider this when planning for your Will.

How do I write a will without a lawyer in Canada?

You can write a Will in Canada without a lawyer by drafting a Will online, and printing it off. Then sign it in front of two witnesses. This process is fairly simple and does not necessarily require legal assistance.

Can I create a legal will entirely online?

Yes, you can create a legal Will entirely online in many jurisdictions. Be sure to consider the regulations in your area to ensure your Will is legally recognized.

What is the difference between a beneficiary and an heir?

The main difference between a beneficiary and an heir is that a beneficiary is someone you name to receive specific assets, while an heir is usually entitled to inherit from you as a relative. It’s important to understand these distinctions when planning your estate.

Do I need to notarize my will?

Notarizing your Will can provide an additional layer of validation and make your will self-proving, therefore, avoiding the probate process.