Wills Application

Please fill in all relevant information on each tab. On the final tab (Review ), you may choose to receive a copy of the wills app entries by email or simply download as .pdf after clicking the green submit button.

Personal Information

Let's start with your basic personal information.

Enter your full legal name: First Name, Middle Name(s), Last Name. Include nicknames as well if you usually go by a nickname instead of your legal name.

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This wills app is only intended for the use of Nova Scotia residents. Laws about wills vary across Canada.
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A few general questions first
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Consider burial instructions

You may simply want your executor and family to make burial and funeral decisions for you, based on what they think you'd prefer.

Another option is to include your specific wishes in your will. You could list your wishes about burial or cremation, funeral or memorial service, or wake, and/or celebration of life, or no service or event. If you list your wishes in your will, talk with your family to let them know they should read your will before they make any funeral arrangements, as arrangements are often made before anyone looks at the will. Note that instructions in your will cannot be changed unless you go through a formal legal procedure or make a new will.

Or, you can prepare a separate letter with your instructions and give it to your executor and/or family who will make funeral arrangements. The advantage of a letter is that you can change it easily any time.

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If you wish to donate your organs, visit Nova Scotia Organ and Tissue Donation Program. Talk with your family about your wishes and ask that they honour them. There is also the option of donating your body through Dalhousie University's Human Body Donation Program.

Partner

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Legal information about spouse or partner

Marriage: Your will is revoked if you marry, unless you make the will knowing you are going to get married, and your will clearly says that and names the person you are marrying.

Divorce: Parts of your will may be revoked (invalid) if you divorce. As of August 19 2008 divorce revokes parts of a will that provide a gift or benefit to a former spouse or appoint them as executor. There are exceptions. For example, the will, a court order, separation agreement or marriage contract may specifically say that the terms are not affected by a divorce. Talk with a lawyer if you have a will and are getting divorced.

Married spouse or registered domestic partner: Nova Scotia's Matrimonial Property Act, and Testator's Family Maintenance Act apply to married spouses and registered domestic partners. The Testator's Family Maintenance Act tries to make sure that your dependents, including a married spouse or registered domestic partner, are left with money and support whenever possible and if necessary. The Matrimonial Property Act says that when one spouse dies, the surviving spouse can apply for an equal division of matrimonial property. These laws place some limits on how you may distribute your property in your will.

Common law partners: Common law partners are not included under the Intestate Succession Act, which is the Nova Scotia law that applies if you die without a valid will, called dying "intestate". It is therefore especially important to have a will, and to look at other estate planning options like owning assets together, if you are in a common law relationship and want to make sure what you own goes to your common law partner when you die.

Separated, but not Divorced: You may be separated but not divorced from a former married spouse, and have a common law partner you live with right now. Tell your lawyer if you are separated but not divorced from a former spouse.

Children and Dependents

Let’s talk about children and people who are dependent on you

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Who would you like to name as guardian of your minor child(ren)? Read more about Guardianship of a Minor
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Legal information about children, other dependents, and appointing a guardian for your child

Children: The law expects you to include your biological or adopted children as beneficiaries in your will, including adult children who are independent.

Children under 19 are minors. Your minor child(ren)'s part of your estate must be placed in a trust until they turn 19 years of age. A trust is a legal way to hold property for others who cannot legally own property, including minor child(ren). Minor children cannot have property worth more than $10,000 in their own name.

Generally if your are leaving property to minor children, you would name a trustee in your will (executor or other person) and instruct them to hold the funds for the benefit of the minor child(ren) until they reach 19, when the children get whatever hasn’t been spent from the trust account. The trustee will manage the money following the basic instructions in your will. You also allow the trustee to transfer some or all of the trust funds to the legal guardian to use for the child(ren)’s benefit. Talk to a lawyer for further information, especially if you want a trust with special conditions or want to set a different age for your children to get their part of the estate.

Read more from Nova Scotia's Public Trustee about money or property that is due to a child from an inheritance, including what happens if your will does not appoint a trustee for a minor child’s money or property.

Guardian: If you have children under 19, you may be naming a guardian who’ll be responsible for them. The guardian will have the same legal responsibilities that you currently have for your child(ren). Usually, you name someone who’s involved with your child(ren).

If you and the other parent of your child(ren) are not together as a couple and you do not wish your child(ren) to live with the other parent if you die, you can name someone else as guardian, and explain why you are not choosing the other parent. Stating your wishes about a guardian in your will does not mean that is automatically what will happen. A surviving parent can apply for custody of the children, and a judge would consider your wishes as outlined in your will, along with a number of other factors, to decide what is in the best interests of the children.

If you don’t name a guardian for after you die, family members or close friends may have to go to court to be appointed guardian.

Executor

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Your executor

Choose someone - a family member, close friend, or other trustworthy person — to be your executor. If possible, choose someone who lives in Nova Scotia. It is best to name an executor and a backup executor who will most likely outlive you, so you can be sure that your estate will be handled by someone you know well and trust. Check with them first to make sure they are okay with being appointed executor in your will. Your executor can also be a beneficiary.

Your executor gathers all of your assets, pays your debts and taxes out of your estate, and distributes your money and property according to the instructions in your will. You’ll want a responsible and capable person to be your executor.

Some of an executor's tasks may include:

  • protecting estate assets
  • funeral or memorial arrangements and payments
  • telling employers, creditors, banks, and government agencies that you have died
  • paying all outstanding debts
  • applying for the Canada Pension Plan death benefit
  • doing income tax returns and paying any income tax owing
  • distributing the estate according to your instructions.

Here is more information about the executor's role.

You may appoint a person to act as an alternate or backup executor in case the person you choose is not able or willing to do the job at the time. Then the backup can take over. Spouses often choose each other to be their executor with a backup in case they both die together. Without a backup executor, family or friends or the Public Trustee may have to make a court application.

Some financial institutions, trust companies, or professionals can be named as executor, but check with yours to see if they provide that service and if they do, what it costs. They usually charge a lot, so people usually don’t pursue this option.

If you do not have anyone to name as executor, you may contact the Nova Scotia Public Trustee's office to see if they would agree to be named as executor in your will.

Some people want to appoint more than one executor (called co-executors) to share the responsibility. This is different than having a backup executor who takes over if there is a problem with your first choice. Having more than one person in charge as co-executors means that there may be disagreements about what is to be done. Unless you provide otherwise, each co-executor has the authority to sign on behalf of your estate. If your co-executors do not agree, this could cause problems for your estate. You should talk with a lawyer if you want to appoint co-executors, as your will should specify exactly what to do when the co-executors disagree.

If you do not name someone to be an executor in your will, if your executor is not able to act for any reason, or if you die without a will, your next of kin will usually have to ask the Probate Court to appoint someone to fill the executor’s role. This person is called an administrator.

Debt

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Your beneficiaries will get what is in your estate after the executor has paid all debts, expenses, and taxes, and has distributed specific gifts (if necessary).

Keep a record: Keep an up-to-date, detailed record of all that you owe. Keeping a list of your debts will help your executor know what estate debts there might be, and what creditor/financial institution holds them. What you owe may include credit-card debts, a line of credit, personal loans, mortgage loans, vehicle loans, student loan, and payments under a court order. Keep this record in a very safe place.

Named Beneficiaries

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.

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Disinherited

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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

Thinking about the named beneficiaries above, please list your assets and who they should benefit

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Common assets often include:

  • Home
  • Other property (house, land, condo)
  • Vehicles
  • Home Contents Including Furniture
  • Items of Particular Value
  • Money In Banks Or Other Financial Institutions
  • Other Savings and Assets
  • Shares/Investments
  • Insurance and Pensions

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.

Personal Directives

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Personal Directive

A personal directive allows you to name a substitute decision-maker to make personal and health care decisions for you if you lose capacity and are unable to make those decisions yourself. You can document your wishes about what personal care decisions are made for you, and/or who you would want to make them, and give instructions about how you want them made. Personal care decisions include those related to health care, nutrition, hydration, shelter, residence, clothing, hygiene, safety, comfort, recreation, social activities and support services.

Go here for more information about Personal Directives, including sample forms and answers to common questions.

General Power of Attorney
A general power of attorney is a legal document that can give your attorney authority over all or some of your finances and property. It allows your attorney to manage your finances and property on your behalf only while you are mentally capable of managing your own affairs. It ends if you become mentally incapable of managing your own affairs. A general power of attorney can be “specific” or “limited”,which can give authority to your attorney for a limited task (for example, to sell your house) or give them authority for a specific period of time. The power of attorney can start as soon as you sign it, or it can start on a specific date that you write in the document.

Enduring/Continuing Power of Attorney
An enduring or continuing power of attorney is a legal document that lets your attorney continue acting for you if you become mentally incapable of managing your finances and property. It can also give your attorney authority over all or some of your finances and property.

Go here for more information about Power of Attorney.

A Power of Attorney and Personal Directive only apply during your lifetime. They have no effect after death.

If required please review your entries by using the tabs (or click submit to finalize). After form submission we will provide you with a download link.
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General Tips

Life changes: Review your will and choice of executor every few years, especially whenever there are big changes in your life, like marriage, divorce, separation, common law relationship, death of a beneficiary or beneficiary turns 19, the birth or adoption of a child. There are two ways to make changes: sometimes you can make a codicil (a formal document generally making minor changes to a will) or you may need to make a new will. See a lawyer to find out what's necessary for your changes.

Also regularly review whether you need to change beneficiary designations under assets like RRSPs, RRIFs, TFSAs, life insurance policies and pensions.

Choose your witnesses: For your will to be legally valid and enforceable, you must arrange for witnesses before you sign it yourself. You must sign the will with the two witnesses there together, and you must tell the witnesses that the will is yours. You and your witnesses should also initial each page. The witnesses do not have to read the will. They just have to know who you are and that you are signing a will in their presence. The will must have the date you signed it included on it. The lawyer who does your will, or staff who work at their office, can be a witness.

A witness must be a mentally capable adult (19 years of age or older) and must not be a beneficiary or a beneficiary's spouse.

You should also arrange for one of the witnesses to swear or affirm and Affidavit of Execution. An Affidavit of Execution is a statement by one of the witnesses to the signing of a will. In the affidavit the witness confirms that he or she witnessed the signing of the will by the testator and in the presence of the other witness and that the testator was of sound mind and of the age of majority at the time the will was signed.

An affidavit of execution can be made any time after the signing of the will but it is best to do it immediately after the will is signed. After your death, your Executor can use the affidavit in court to show that the will was properly signed and witnessed. If there is no affidavit, the Executor will have to locate one of the witnesses and have him or her swear an affidavit when the Executor applies for a grant of probate of the will.

Storing your will: You would be wise to keep your will in a safety deposit box with your financial institution. If you cannot do that, then store your will in a fireproof (metal) box such as a metal filing cabinet or cash box. Let your executor know exactly where you are keeping your will.