A will is one of the most important documents you will sign in your lifetime. This pamphlet is designed to give you basic information about wills. If you need more information, please call Supportive Care, London Regional Cancer Program at 519-685-8622 and ask to speak to a Social Worker.
Why is a will important?
A will is the only way to make sure that your estate (the property that you leave behind when you die) is distributed the way you want. It outlines who will get your property. You can also name the person who is responsible for following the instructions in your will and settling your estate.
This person is called the estate trustee, executor, or executrix. You should select someone you trust to carry out the terms of your will. The trustee can be a spouse, relative, friend, or a trust company. You can also choose more than one trustee in the event that your first choice is not able to act, or decides not to act.
Be sure they will have your best interests at heart and will honour your wishes.
What kind of will can I use?
There are two kinds of wills you can use in Ontario: the formal will and the holographic will.
A lawyer usually prepares a formal will. A holographic will is one that is completely handwritten by the testator (the person who signs the will) and is prepared without a lawyer’s help.
A will does not have to be a complicated document, but it does have to be exact. Your will must be clear so that everyone understands it.
Do I need a lawyer?
Dividing assets can be complicated and may involve many laws. Lawyers are recommended because they make certain that the law is met and that your will leaves no doubt about your wishes.
An experienced lawyer can also help you to:
- Find possible problems with the will;
- Make an informed decision regarding the person(s) you want to manage your affairs after your death;
- Ensure the manner in which your estate is to be distributed.
If you have young children, you must name a guardian. The guardian is the person who will take care of your children, if the other parent is unable to care for them.
What if I do not make a will?
If you die without a will, the law says that you have died “in testate”. When this happens, the law says how your property is to be distributed and to whom.
The rules in the law must be followed and there is no way things can be done differently. The neediest person in your family or the person you like the most may be excluded. This may not be the desirable outcome for your family’s needs.
When you die without a will, your estate may be more complicated to settle. Without a trustee, there is more paperwork and settling your estate can take more time and money.
If you die without a will you are basically letting the Province of Ontario decide what happens with your assets, how they are shared and in what amount. It may also be necessary for someone to ask the Court to appoint them to manage your assets and deal with your affairs.
The need to put your affairs in order can cause increased stress for you and your family. Contact Supportive Care, London Regional Cancer Program at 519-685-8622.
- “Reasons abound for drafting a will” London Free Press, August 8, 1998.
- When Someone Dies and Leaves a Will, Brochure prepared by the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic (Ontario), March 1997.
- Writing a will?, The Law Society of Upper Canada brochure.