Making a will and planning your estate

From: Financial Consumer Agency of Canada

Make and update your will

A will is a legal document that says how you want your estate to be divided once you die. Your estate includes what you own (called assets) and what you owe (called liabilities). An up-to-date will can help your estate representative deal with your estate when you die. Provinces and territories set the laws for estates.

You're not legally required to prepare a will. However, if you don't have a will, the laws in your province or territory will determine how your estate is divided.

It's a good idea to get professional legal help when you make a will. This will help you make sure all your documents are prepared and witnessed properly. Be prepared to pay legal fees.

It's a good idea to make a will, even if you're not sick or don't seek legal advice.

To learn about the laws in your province or territory that deal with wills, look at provincial and territorial resources on estate law.

Find a lawyer from your provincial or territorial law society.

Keep your will up to date

Review it often. Make sure it reflects your current wishes and the state of your finances.

Be aware that in some provinces and territories, getting married, living common-law or getting divorced or separated can cancel any previous wills you had made.

Naming your estate representative

An estate representative is the person you choose to manage your estate after your death. An estate representative may also be called an executor, an estate trustee or a liquidator.

You can name more than one person as your estate representative. The estate representative follows the instructions you left in your will.

You may name anyone as your estate representative. You may name a person who is close to you such as a family member or friend as estate representative. You may also name a financial professional as your estate representative. It's a good idea to talk to your estate representative to make sure they're comfortable with their responsibilities.

If you have not named an estate representative or have no will, provincial or territorial courts will name someone to manage your estate.

Learn more about being an estate representative.

Funeral planning

You can prepare financially for your funeral by pre-paying for your funeral service. You can also arrange the funeral service in advance. Funerals can be very stressful and expensive. Preparing and pre-paying for your funeral will ensure that your loved ones aren't responsible for this expense.

The laws about funerals differ by province, territory and municipality.

Learn what to consider when paying for your funeral in advance, look at the funeral section of the publication The Canadian Consumer Handbook. It includes contact information for funeral service regulators in different provinces and territories.

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