In this section you need to to choose your beneficiaries. Beneficiaries are the people and/or charity(ies) who will get what is in your estate, called the "residue" of the estate, once the executor has paid all debts, expenses, and taxes, and has distributed specific gifts (if necessary). You need to name one or more alternate beneficiaries in case your first choice(s) dies before you do or at the same time.
Spouses often choose each other to be their only beneficiary. But in case you both die together or within a short time of each other, you also need to name alternate beneficiary(ies), such as your children, other family members, or close friends.
Disinherited: The law places limits on how you may distribute your property in your will. Generally the law says there is both a legal and moral obligation to provide for a spouse and child(ren) in a will. A spouse includes both a married spouse and a registered domestic partner. Children includes biological or adopted children, whether minor or adult children.
The Matrimonial Property Act says that when one spouse dies, the surviving married spouse or registered domestic partner can apply to court for an equal division of matrimonial property out of the estate.
The Testator's Family Maintenance Act tries to make sure that your dependents, including a married spouse or registered domestic partner, and children, are left with money and support whenever possible and if necessary. If you leave your spouse or child(ren) out of your will, or leave them less than expected, they can apply to court to challenge your will under the Testator's Family Maintenance Act.
See a lawyer if you want to leave a spouse or child out of your will, or leave them less than expected.
Assets that are not part of your estate: Joint assets such as joint bank accounts or property that you own in joint tenancy are not usually part of your estate (or your will). They go directly to the joint owner(s) when you die. Check with your bank to see how your accounts are set up. Look at the deed to any property you have (house, land, condo) to see if you own the property in joint tenancy.
If you have RRSPs, RRIFs, and TFSAs, other investments, or life insurance, you probably named a beneficiary for them when you signed the documents. These assets will go directly to that beneficiary when you die. Check with the financial institution to confirm who you chose as beneficiary(ies). Also ask if you can name an alternate beneficiary. If you don’t and the named beneficiary dies before you or dies at the same time as you, these assets go to the other beneficiary(ies) you name in your will.
Keep a record: Keep an up-to-date, detailed record of all that you own. Keep a list of your assets, including bank accounts, RRSPs, RRIFs, TFSAs and other investments, insurance, real estate, and pension benefits. This will help your executor know what estate assets there might be, what assets are not part of your estate and would not pass according to your will (anything owned in joint tenancy or that names a specific person as beneficiary), and how to locate them. Keep this record in a very safe place.
Personal belongings: For your personal belongings, you can let the executor and beneficiaries decide what to do with them, based on what they think you’d prefer. However, if you want to give specific gifts such as an amount of money or a specific item (a piece of jewellery to a niece, for example), there are two main choices:
1. You can choose to list the gifts or specific items right into your will. The drawback to listing gifts in your will is that if you want to make a change, you’ll have to follow a formal legal procedure to do so, or make a new will.
2. You can simply tell your executor your wishes for specific gifts or give a letter with your instructions. The advantage of doing a letter is that you can change it easily at any time. The letter isn't part of the will. It’s simply an expression of your wishes that you’d like your executor to follow.
You can also do both, listing your most valuable items in the will and less valuable items in a letter.