Have you ever thought about creating a will without a lawyer? While it is possible to write your own will, it’s not recommended and could cause big hassles for your family and friends after you pass.

The internet has made us all DIY’ers (meaning “do it yourself”). If you search for the term “DIY” in Google Canada, you get over 2 BILLION search results! It goes to show how the internet is empowering all of us to do everything ourselves. However, just because we can, doesn’t mean we should when it comes to drawing up legal documents wills.

What happens if you die without a will?

A legally binding will is the best gift you can leave your loved ones. If you create a will without a lawyer or don’t write one at all, you risk the state or courts deciding what happens to all your property, assets and debts. Even if you don’t care who gets your possessions, a will is important to reduce the delays and expenses in settling your estate. In British Columbia, for example, without a will, your estate will be divided according to the Wills, Estates, and Succession Act.

What are the requirements for a will to be valid?

There are several basic parts of your will that must exist for it to be legally binding and valid:

  1. Your name and details: The person whom the will is for is called the “testator.” Their information must be the first section. Include your birth name (if different from today), and any other legal names you’ve held in your lifetime. You occupation may also be listed here.
  2. Revocation of previous wills: You may have several versions of your will that you will have written in your lifetime. To ensure there is no conflict with other wills in your name, include this revocation statement to renounce any prior wills.
  3. Executor: An executor is the person you are assigning to be your representative in fulfilling the requests and legal obligations of your will and estate. This can be any person over the ages of 18 or 19 (depending on where you live) who is mentally competent to execute your wishes.
  4. Beneficiaries: Probably the longest part of your will will be the inventory of all assets and property you own that you wish to be donated or given to family members or organizations when you die. When possible, adding an alternate beneficiary for each item allows the executor to send the alternate the property if the main beneficiary dies before you, or is unable to accept it.
  5. Residue Clause: As it’s impossible to list every individual item you own in your will, you should add a residue clause at the end which states that any property, asset, or debt not listed in the will, will be given to this person or organization. It will then be this person’s responsibility to keep, gift, or take care of these items as they see fit.
  6. Signatures: Typed wills, which are the form we recommend, require two witness signatures at the bottom, and initials on each page.

These are just the generally required parts of a will in Canada. It’s advised not to create a will without a lawyer overseeing the process because they can advise on province-specific rules and laws that may apply to your unique situation.

Can I create a will without a lawyer?

The short answer is yes, but you (or your loved ones) may regret it later. By creating a will without a lawyer, you may leave out critical pieces of information, or write it in non-legally binding or vague language. This could nullify your will and your final wishes may be decided by the courts. Probate can be a long drawn out process for your loved ones to endure and gives no guarantee your wishes will be carried out exactly.

If you have complicated wishes, or significant property, assets, or debts, a lawyer can help ensure there are no holes in your will. Ensure that your dependents, who may be counting on the money or assets get what you leave them, get everything you set-out by investing in creating your will with a lawyer.

Can you just write a will and get it notarized?

First, it’s important to know the difference between a lawyer and a notary. A notary is trained in providing advice and support in drawing up many types of legal documents, but are not required to have a law degree. A lawyer has a law degree, can also help you draw up documents, and can also represent you in court should it be required. They often have more experience and knowledge than a notary.

So while you can use a notary to advise and notarize your will, if you have complicated issues, or want to more fully safeguard your family, have an experienced wills and estates lawyer draw up your legal will.

Thinking about what happens to your loved ones after you die is not always the most uplifting of conversations to have, but it’s necessary to ensure your wishes are honoured, and your loved ones are protected after your passing.

To make the process of drawing up a will easier, the friendly lawyers at Dreyer Davison Family Law are here to help ensure your will is written correctly and legally. Submit their questionnaire to contact a local wills and estates lawyer about your will.