20 November 2023
How Do You Create a Will?
Creating a will is a crucial step in planning for the future and ensuring your assets are distributed according to your wishes. While it may seem daunting, especially from a legal perspective, it’s a process that everyone should undertake to secure their family’s financial future. In this blog, we’ll guide you through the steps of creating a will. If you want to learn more about wills, visit our previous blog post: Will: What it is and 7 Reasons Why You Need One.
1. Understand the Importance of a Will
Before delving into the process, it’s essential to grasp the significance of having a will. A will is a legal document that outlines how your assets and properties will be distributed after your passing. It also allows you to name guardians for your minor children and appoint an executor to manage the estate. Without a will, your assets may be subject to the provisions in British Columbia legislation including the Wills, Estates and Succession Act, potentially causing unnecessary disputes and delays for your loved ones.
2. Seek Legal Advice
While it’s possible to create a basic will on your own, with a notary, or through numerous online services and apps, consulting a lawyer is often advisable, especially if you have significant assets, complex family dynamics, or specific wishes. A lawyer can provide legal expertise, ensuring that your will complies with federal and provincial legislation, minimizes tax implications, minimizes the potential for beneficiary disputes, and accurately reflects your intentions.
3. Gather Essential Information
Before meeting with a lawyer, gather all the necessary information and documents, including:
- A list of your assets, such as real estate, bank accounts, investments, and personal property.
- Information about your beneficiaries and their contact details.
- Any debts or liabilities.
- Specific bequests (gifts of specific items) or conditions for distributing assets.
- Your preferred executor, guardian for minors, and alternate choices.
4. Consult with Your Lawyer
During your consultation with a lawyer, you’ll first need to confirm your ID in the manner required by the Law Society of British Columbia. You’ll then discuss your wishes and objectives. Your lawyer will help you make important decisions, such as choosing the appropriate legal language and structuring your will to minimize potential disputes. Ideally, your lawyer will work collaboratively with your accountant and financial advisor to minimize tax liabilities and maximize the benefit flowing to your beneficiaries.
5. Drafting the Will
Once your lawyer has a clear understanding of your intentions, they will draft the will accordingly. Your will should include, at minimum:
- A clear statement of your name, date of birth, place of birth, and intent.
- Details about the appointment of an executor.
- Instructions to your executor to pay your outstanding debts and obligations, such as your taxes.
- Specific bequests to beneficiaries and / or charities.
- Provisions for the distribution of the remaining assets (often referred to as the “residue”).
- Instructions for guardianship of minor children, if applicable.
- Signatures and dates, along with witness signatures.
6. Review and Revise
After the initial draft is prepared, review it carefully with your lawyer. Ensure that your will accurately reflects your wishes and ask any questions you may have. It’s important to keep your will up to date, especially when major life events occur, such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, or the birth of children.
7. Signing and Witnessing
Your lawyer will guide you through the process of signing and witnessing your will, which is critical to its legality. Generally, wills require two or more witnesses who are not beneficiaries or related to you. In most jurisdictions (including British Columbia), wills can now be witnessed and signed electronically. Ask you lawyer for a virtual meeting if you are not able to meet your lawyer in person.
8. Safe Storage
After your will is signed and witnessed, store it in a safe and accessible place. Inform your executor and loved ones of its location.
Creating a will from a lawyer’s perspective involves careful planning and adherence to legal standards. While it may seem complex, the process ensures that your assets are distributed according to your wishes, providing security and peace of mind for you and your loved ones. Consulting a lawyer to help you navigate this journey is a wise step, as they can provide expert guidance to create a legally sound and comprehensive document.
It is easiest to create a will when you are not under any pressure to do so. The first step can be as simple as a call to one of our wills and estate planning lawyers. Don’t delay— book a free 30 minute consultation with our legal team to start the process of creating your will today.
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