f you (a) own property or any other valuables, (b) have children, and/or (c) run a business, then a will is necessary for your estate plan.  A will is a written instrument that directs what happens to your assets upon death.  A person who gives directions on the will is known as a testator (in the case of a male) or testatrix (in the case of a female), whereas those who receive gifts/property under the will are known as beneficiaries.

There are two main types of wills: an attested will and a holograph will.  A holograph will has less onerous formal requirements than an attested will, and generally refers to a will that is written entirely by the hand of the testator without the need for a witness.  On the other hand, an attested will is signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses (please note that certain individuals, like beneficiaries, are excluded from acting as a witness).

A will is key for your control and certainty over the important decisions that will be made when you pass away.  Such decisions may include:

(i) Who will care for my children?

(ii) To whom shall my property be distributed to?

(iii) Have I provided sufficient financial support for my loved ones?

(iv) What will happen to my business?

A properly drafted will removes doubt when your estate is administered.  In addition, a will gives you the benefit of controlling the distribution of certain assets in a way to minimize tax liability.  Without a will, your estate’s handling will be determined by a legislated formula which may not reflect your intentions.  In Ontario, courts have generally applied the formalities and execution of the will very strictly.

If there are any defects with the will, a provision or even the entire document may be declared invalid.  Therefore, it is important to consult with a lawyer to ensure that you have a will that has been properly executed and meets all of the statutory requirements.

* Disclaimer:  the information provided in this article is NOT legal advice but fundamental information to be further inquired upon professionally.  You should always consult with a qualified lawyer to obtain proper legal advice.

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