Wills explained

A will is a formal document that describes how you want your assets distributed after your death.

A will is a formal document setting out how your money, property and other assets (your “estateEstate The total sum of money and property you leave behind when you die.+ read full definition”) are to be distributed when you die. You can change your will at any time before your death, as long as you have the mental capacity to know and understand the change.

If you die without a valid will, a court will appoint someone to administer your estate and distribute the assets according to a formula set out in provincial estate and family laws.

Having a valid, up-to-date will is essential to ensuring your estate is distributed as you intend it, and that your death does not create a legal and administrative burden to your family.

Your beneficiaries

Your beneficiaries are the people you name in your will to inherit your assets.

You can distribute your estate in 1 of 2 main ways:

  1. By a specific bequest (“I give my daughter Joan Jones the sum of $10,000 and my diamond engagement ring”), or
  2. By a shareShare A piece of ownership in a company. A share does not give you direct control over the company’s daily operations. But it does let you get a share of profits if the company pays dividends.+ read full definition in the residue, which is the amount remaining in the estate after all bequests, debts, and taxes have been paid (“I leave my husband Bob Jones the residue of my estate”).

Your will can also provide other types of gifts by creating a trust in your will. This is known as a testamentary trustTrust An account set up to hold assets for a beneficiary. A trustee manages the assets until the beneficiary reaches legal age.+ read full definition.

Fast fact

Your will can be changed at any time – it doesn’t take effect until your death.

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