The information required to plan a Will properly is fairly detailed and each lawyer has to make their own decision about what is required for particular clients, The following list covers most scenarios and can serve as a general guide:
- Full name, citizenship, residency, marital status and date of birth for each of: testator, testator’s spouse, dependants of testator (e.g. children, grandchildren, parents), beneficiaries.
- Full name, citizenship and residency of the estate trustee (original and alternate) as well as any separate trustees who will be administering trusts created under the Will.
- Full name, citizenship and residency of guardians to be appointed for minor children.
- A summary of all financial information of the testator including; address of all real property held with the purchase price and current value and a description of how title is held (joint tenancy or tenancy in common); a list of all bank accounts with current values and a description of how title is held (e.g. single, joint, or joint with rights of survivorship); a list of all investment accounts with the initial cost amount with the current value and a description of how the account is held (e.g. single, joint, joint with rights of survivorship); a list of all insurance policies with the face amount and cash surrender value as well as the names of the designated beneficiaries (original or alternate) and their shares if not equal; a list of all pension or other plans with the current value and payment amounts as well as the names of the designated beneficiaries whether original or alternate; a list of all RRSP/RRIF plans with the current value; a list of all RESPs with the current value and name of any successor owner as well as the names of beneficiariesl a list of all items of personal property with the current value (e.g. cars, jewllery, art); a list of all business interests such as those in corporations or partnerships; a list of all intellectual property with a description of its kind and type of registration as well as the current value; all list of all digital assets such as online social media accounts; a list of all debts (including guarantees) with a description of the type of debt (e.g. mortgage, line of credit, credit card), the current amount outstanding and the names of any persons who are jointly liable.
- An outline of how you want your estate distributed which may include: debt forgiveness; specific gifts of real property; a list of specific items of personal property to be gifted to certain persons or charities; a list of cash gifts to specific persons or charities; a distribution scheme for the residue of the estate; an alternate distribution scheme for the residue of the estate in the event none of the originally designated beneficiaries is alive or in existence at the relevant time.
- Where a beneficiary may be under the age of majority (or age determined appropriate to receive their gift directly) on the date of death of the testator, consideration needs to be given to having the gift held in trust by the estate trustee or other trustee. The terms of the trust in the Will need to specify the age at which the person can receive their gfit such as age 25 and how the gift is to be managed in the trust prior to that age (i.e. rules about distributions of income and capital). If the age chosen is greater than the age of majority in the applicable jurisdiction (18 in most Canadian provinces but 19 in some) then the terms of the Will MUST include an alternate gifting provision (called a “gift over”) in case the person does not reach the stated age. Without this gift over, the person can demand their gift in full at the age of majority assuming they have the requisite capacity.
- Similarly, where it may be inappropriate for a beneficiary to receive their gift outright, consideration should be given to having it held in trust with terms suitable to the circumstances. A gift over here is also required to prevent the initial beneficiary from defeating the trust.
Other information as appropriate to be determined in conjunction with the lawyer planning and preparing the Will.
For assistance, use the PDF Get Started – Will Planning booklet available on the Forms page. This should be used in conjunction with the PDF Get Started – Estate Planning (long or short form) booklet also available on the Forms page.