Becoming a new parent is exciting and a major life change. We know there are probably a lot of tasks on your “new parent to-do list”, but one of the most important should be making a will and estate planning documents.
We get it, estate planning can feel overwhelming. A recent survey commissioned by Willful with AngusReid found that 61% of Canadian parents don’t have an up-to-date will – that’s almost two-thirds of parents!
As a parent, it feels like we never have enough time in the day. And creating a will can feel like a lengthy process. The truth is, making a will isn’t as expensive or time-consuming as many people think. Making a will guarantees that your assets go to the people you want them to go to and prevents family conflict and confusion. Simply put, having a will allows you to manage your legacy.
In this article, we’ll break down the steps to creating your estate plan for new parents and hopefully make it easier for you to check this off your to-do list!
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1. Decide What Type Of Will You Want To Make
First things first, you’ll need to choose which type of will you want to make. There are many ways for parents to make legal wills in Canada. You can visit a lawyer, use an online platform like Willful, or even hand write your will.
Regardless of how you decide to make your will, it’s crucial to understand what makes a will legally valid has nothing to do with whether it was created using a lawyer. While you don’t need a lawyer to make a will in Canada, some individuals may benefit from legal advice. If you have a complex estate or want to include many custom clauses in your will, a lawyer-drafted will might be a good option for you.
Depending on your unique circumstances, there are pros and cons to using the different options. To help you decide what’s the best option for you, review the benefits and how you can make a will using each option.
2. Decide Which Assets To Include In Your Will
While writing your will, make a list of all the items and accounts you own.
These assets can include property (including your home, vehicles, and any other real estate you own), bank and retirement accounts, life insurance policies, pets, family heirlooms or personal items.
You can designate these assets to specific people in your will.
3. Now, Choose Who Will Receive Those Assets
Once you have created your list of all your assets, it’s time to decide who you want to receive each of them after you pass away. You’ll choose your beneficiary who is the person (or people) who will receive part of your estate. Your beneficiaries can include your spouse, children, extended family, friends, and any charitable organizations you care about.
Make sure you are specific and have clear instructions about who you want to receive what! During what will likely be a difficult time for your loved ones, they will value receiving your specific instructions.
4. Choose Your Executor
Next, you’ll appoint an executor who will ensure your final wishes are carried out. This person will distribute property to your beneficiaries, pay any debts, and do any other necessary tasks to wrap up your estate.
Because it can be a challenging role with many responsibilities, you should choose someone trustworthy, organized, and reliable. Many individuals choose their spouse, adult child, or a close friend to take on the job; however, bear in mind that this may place an additional strain on them at a difficult time.
In the event that your primary executor is unable or unable to carry out the duties when the time comes, you should also select a backup executor in your will.
5. Choose Guardians For Your Minor Children
Anyone with minor children should choose a guardian for them in their will. When you pass away, your child’s other parent will often get legal guardianship. But in the heartbreaking event that you pass at the same time, you can use your will to ensure you get to choose who will be their guardian.
If you die without nominating a guardian, and your child’s other parent can’t care for them, the court will choose a guardian for you. This is why it’s important to choose someone you trust. And just like an executor, you can name a backup guardian in case your first is unable to fulfill their role.
Being a guardian is a huge responsibility, so make sure you have a conversation with this person to ensure they’re up for the task!
Get a free guide for making a will as a parent →
6. Make A Donation To A Charity
While this is an optional step, did you know you can include nonprofit organizations in your will?
Many of us donate to causes throughout our lifetime. However, legacy gifts are a gift to a charity or non-profit organization in your last will and testament. It can be a piece of property, cash, or a percentage of your estate. It’s a great way to make a difference, even after you’re gone.
7. Sign Your Will In Front Of Witnesses To Make It Legally Valid
By this step, you’re almost done making your will!
In order for your will to be legally valid, you must sign your will in wet ink in the presence of two valid witnesses and they must sign to confirm they have witnessed your signature. The signatures must be at the very end of the will.
Keep in mind that the rules and language vary from province to province. (In British Columbia you are permitted to witness and store your will online.)
8. Store Your Will In A Safe Place
Now that you have a legal will, it’s important to store the physical copy in a safe place.
You should gather other significant estate planning documents and keep them in the same location as your will. This makes it simple for your will’s executor to locate all of your crucial papers after your passing.
9.Tell Your Executor And Loved Ones Where Your Will Documents Are And How To Access Them
Let your executor and family members know where all of your estate planning documents are kept and how to access them. Your will is only helpful if your loved ones know where to find it!
With Willful, once you’ve created your will or power of attorney documents, you’re able to view all the individuals that you’ve assigned to key roles. You’ll be able to notify them by sending an email to all your key appointees.
10. Update Your Will Whenever You Have A Big Life Change
Anytime you have a big life change, it’s important to update your will.
- Having children or grandchildren
- Buying property
- Getting married or divorced
- Moving provinces
- If one of your beneficiaries or executors passes away
The Bottom Line
As a parent, we all want what’s best for our children. This includes preparing for the unexpected.
Having a will ensures you protect your loved ones and contribute to the people and causes you care about the most.
Willful is an online estate planning platform that helps Canadian parents create their will and power of attorney documents in as little as 20 minutes. Enjoy peace of mind knowing you’ve made a plan to protect your children and loved ones.