Legal Wills (BC) – Part 5: Preparing to do your Will

Legal Wills (BC)

Please note that the information provided herein is not legal advice and is provided for informational and educational purposes only. If you need legal advice, you should seek professional assistance.

Remember: if you’re looking for a Legal Will in the Province of British Columbia, then look no further:

Last Will and Testament (British Columbia)

This Will allows you to:

  • name someone (Estate Trustee) to administer your estate and transfer your property at death;
  • make cash gifts, charitable gifts, and gifts of real or personal property to specific beneficiaries; and
  • transfer the residue of your estate (i.e. the left over assets) to your surviving spouse OR to your surviving issue (e.g. children, grandchildren) OR in trust to your surviving spouse with the remainder going to your surviving issue when your spouse passes away.

Remember: this Last Will and Testament is lawyer-prepared, customizable, affordable, and comes with a ton of free guidance (a video tutorial and written guides!). All for just a fraction of the cost a lawyer would charge (which in 2010, was over $344 for a simple Will for just one person: check out page 3 of 6 in this national fee range report).

How do you prepare to have your Wills drafted?

To prepare to have your Will drafted, you should gather some important and relevant personal and financial information. This information, which can be provided in the form of a checklist, will help the drafter tailor your Will to meet your needs. Having this information conveniently available alongside the Will can also benefit your trustee and beneficiaries, who won’t have to be looking for hidden or hard to find assets and liabilities after you die. The following basic information should be included in the checklist:

  • Personal Information: name, address, date of birth, marital status (past and present), residency, previous Will, marriage contract, etc.;
  • Family and Dependant Information: names, addresses, dates of birth of spouse(s), children, and dependants, etc.;
  • Professional Advisors: names and addresses of lawyer, accountant, investment advisor, life insurance agent, etc.;
  • Income Information: amount of annual income from all sources (e.g. employment, business, rent, royalties, etc.);
  • Assets: bank accounts, safety deposit boxes, real estate, life insurance, annuities, RRSPs, RRIFs, pensions, investments, business interests, debts owing from third parties, cars, boats, machinery/tools/equipment, household goods and furniture, etc.; and
  • Liabilities: mortgages, loans, credit card balances, etc.

Once these details have been gathered, the next step is for you to outline the instructions for your Will. To start, the following questions will need to be answered with respect to disposing of personal effects and the residue of your estate:

  • Who do you wish to be your Executor?
  • How do you want your personal property and real property to be gifted?
  • How do you want the residue of the estate to be dealt with?
  • Would you like to create a spousal trust, whereby your surviving spouse can live off the income generated by the residue of your estate until he or she passes away, in which case, the residue is distributed among the beneficiaries (e.g. the children?)?
  • Who do you wish to be the Guardian of your minor children and Custodian of their property?
  • What kinds of powers do you want your Executor to have with respect to you personal effects (e.g. power to sell, power to invest, power to distribute proceeds, power to loan funds to beneficiaries or others, power to take reasonable compensation from the residue of the estate, etc.) and assets?
  • Do you want to have special clauses dealing with minors (e.g. property relating to minors, a trust relating to minors, guardians of minor’s property, etc.)?
  • What kind of funeral do you want to have?
  • Do you wish to donate your organs?
  • How are disputes to be handled (e.g. arbitration, mediation, court, etc.)?

These and other questions will need to be answered before your Will can be properly drafted.

What is the basic structure of a simple Will?

There is no set format for a Will. Nor are there any specific words that must appear in a Will. It is only necessary that a proper intention be expressed and other formalities be followed. That said, simple Wills follow a common structure:

  1. Identify the date the Will is being made.
  2. Identify the person who is making the Will (i.e. Testator / Testatrix).
  3. Revoke previous Wills.
  4. Appoint an Executor and a Substitute Executor (i.e. someone who is legally competent and who will administer your estate as per your final wishes).
  5. List your wishes concerning your taxes, funeral, and personal effects.
  6. Identify and gift your personal and real property if you wish.
  7. Distribute the residue of your estate (i.e. the left over assets after all liabilities have been paid and all other gifts distributed).
  8. Outline the powers and limits of your Executor (e.g. manage investment, sell / dispose / retain assets, employ agents, deal with real property, make loans to beneficiaries, settle claims, make elections under the Income Tax Act, etc).
  9. Appoint a Custodian for your minor and disabled children and Guardian of their property.
  10. Include dispute resolution provisions (if you wish).
  11. Execution: sign and date the Will and have it witnessed by appropriate parties.

In the next blog, I’ll discuss how Wills may be revoked or revived. I’ll also discuss what happens if there is a mistake in a Will.

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