Canadian Online Wills: How To Make a Will Without a Lawyer

Researching how to make a will without a lawyer online in Canada?

Our guide to Canadian online wills offers helpful tips and resources to quickly and affordably signing a legal will with just a few clicks of your keyboard.

I live in Toronto so I’ve done a lot of research on how to make a will in Ontario. My sister is from Vancouver so I’ve passed on information that is unique to the Canadian online wills process for residents in British Columbia.

Each province in Canada has unique online will requirements. We provide helpful online resources for you below.

Willful has generously offered our readers a $20 off coupon code. Use DOBBERNATIONLOVES at check out to save on the cost of your Canadian online wills.

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How To Make a Will Without a Lawyer

If you’re looking to learn how to easily make a will without a lawyer online in Canada you’ve come to the right place!

According to an Angus Reid Institute Poll, more than half of Canadians don’t have a last will and testament. Do your research to ensure your hard earned money is distributed to your loved ones and the charities and causes you’re passionate about.

  • You don’t need a lawyer to create a will. If you have a more complicated financial situation you may want to visit a lawyer for legal advice.
  • A will outlines how you would like your assets distributed after your death and can name a guardian for any minor children or pets.
  • You don’t need to declare who will receive proceeds from life insurance or retirement savings accounts in your will, as those require a named beneficiary within the account. You can assign the estate as the recipient of such policies/accounts if you don’t want to appoint a person.
  • You can use online templates or software, like Willful to write a will yourself. In order to legalize the will, it needs to be signed by you and two witnesses who do not benefit from the will.

Writing My First Will

I’m a 36 year old millennial.

Like many in my generation, I find myself single and renting in an expensive city. While I’ve dreamed about home ownership and a bulging RRSP account, I’ve also not had the time or mental energy to write an online will, until recently.

The Covid-19 pandemic, which dramatically changed the world in 2020, had many young professionals like me Googling “How To Make a Will Without a Lawyer.” The majority of us were quarantining in our apartments or condos, wondering what would happen to our hard earned savings if heaven forbid we got sick.

My own family had conversations about how to fill out Canadian online wills. My sister and father are frontline workers at hospitals working as a doctor and nurse. We wanted to ensure that if they got sick they had an online will filled out.

I consider myself financially literate. I’ve even written an article on 10 Tips on How to Realize Your Financial Goals for Millennials. I completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Guelph, which had me taking statistics, finance and accounting classes.

I can proudly say I’ve never been in debt, which always shocks people. I pay my credit card bill the day before it’s due and over the years have tried my best to make “living within your means,” a sexy situation.

I’m also an entrepreneur, running a small business (this website!) as a publisher for over a decade. In order to keep my personal and business finances in check, I tabulate my expenses and income on the first of each month.

I’m famously known in my friend and family circles for finishing my taxes each year on January 1st. I enjoy a wee thrill seeing how much I’ve saved in the past year, crunching the numbers to determine my net income. Every accountant I’ve ever worked with says I’m their most eager and prepared client.

I have to confess I have an oddball addiction to saving money, stashing away any cash gifts and leftover income into high interest rate savings accounts, GICs, stocks and ETFs.

After spending the last 12 months indoors I had plenty of free time to review my finances, make new short term and long term money goals and researched how to make a will without a lawyer.

It became clear to me that I was spending all of my energy focussing on savings strategies. I needed to research Canadian wills online so that I could feel confident my hard earn money would be allocated to the correct people and charities whenever I pass away.

Steps To Making a Will Without a Lawyer

  1. Find an online template or software. We suggest using a quick and affordable online will service like Willful, which makes writing your own will without a lawyer straightforward and easy.
  2. Make a list of your assets. We suggest listing out your assets to get a full picture of what you own. You don’t need to list specific assets in your will unless you are leaving something as a specific gift. So if you want to pass on your grandma’s jewelry to your daughter ensure this is specifically noted in the will.
  3. Be specific on who gets what. You want to make the aftermath of your death as easy as possible for your grieving family and friends. It’s always best practice to create a key contact list with the names/contact info of guardians, beneficiaries, financial advisors, accountants, etc. and to store it with your will.
  4. If you have children, choose a guardian. Name the person who will assume legal responsibility for each of your children in the event of your and their other parents death. It’s also smart to select an alternate guardian in case you outlive your first choice and don’t update your will.
  5. Don’t forget about your pets! While it is illegal in many provinces to name your pet as a beneficiary, you’ll probably want to make a plan for their care after your death. You can name the person you’d like to care for your pet after your passing and dedicate funds to help cover future pet costs.
  6. Choose an executor. An executor is the person who will distribute the property, pay any remaining bills and debts, and handle probate (process of the court validating the will and appointing the executor).
  7. Name a residual beneficiary. After the executor is finished distributing your assets and paying outstanding bills, debts and taxes, the residual beneficiary receives what is left over in the estate. This can be a person, several people or charity.
  8. Plan your funeral. My parents have always joked that their funerals should be “the best party they’ll never go to.” List your funeral preferences and last wishes, such as whether you’d like to be cremated or buried.
  9. Sign your will. Even if your will is created using an online service like Willful, you must print out a copy and sign it yourself, asking two witnesses over 18 years old to sign it. Your witnesses cannot be a named executor or their spouse and cannot be a named beneficiary or their spouse. The best practice is to select witnesses who do not benefit from your will.
  10. Keep it in a safe place. Keep the will in a safe place in your home, security box at your bank or with a trusted friend or relative. Make sure a beneficiary or the executor of your will knows the location of the will and how to access it. My mother hilariously emails my sister and I whenever my parents board a flight to let us know their will is sitting on the work desk in her study. She always ends the email, “the will is only to be opened in the event your father and I die on vacation.”
If you're looking to learn how to make a will without a lawyer in Canada Willful is an easy online option.
If you’re looking to learn how to make a will without a lawyer in Canada Willful is an easy online option.

What Happens If You Die Without Making A Will?

If you choose not to write a Last Will and Testament, or just never get around to it before tragedy strikes, then the plan for the distribution of your assets is determined by laws of your province or territory.

The lack of an executor appointment can result in nasty infighting between family members.

The legal status for someone who does not have a will is referred to as intestate. Be sure to review the unique Inheritance Laws for each Province in Canada.

Traditionally when a spouse survives, all of the estate goes to the spouse. Where there is a spouse and child or children, the estate is divided according to each provinces rules and regulations.

If you are single, with no children or grandchildren, your estate will likely be given to your parents. If you have no parents, then your entire estate will be divided between your siblings. If you have no brothers or sisters, then between your nieces and nephews. If you have no nephews and nieces, then your estate will go to your cousins. Only if you have no living relatives does your estate become the property of the government.

Erin Bury and Kevin Oulds are the founders of Willful, offering Canadian online wills to residents in 8 provinces.
Erin Bury and Kevin Oulds are the founders of Willful, offering Canadian online wills to residents in 8 provinces.

Canadian Online Wills Made Easy With Willful

Since I was looking to learn how to make a will in Ontario I was happy to have local Canadian brand Willful recommended to me by a friend.

Willful is a Toronto-based provider of Canadian online wills, which originally launched in October, 2017. Willful is currently available to residents of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario and British Columbia.

In 2021, Willful launched its first bilingual site in French for residents of Quebec.

The Willful team worked hard to design an easy online experience that takes all the heavy lifting out of end-of-life planning. They work with a team of estate lawyers in each province who help ensure all documents adhere to provincial legislation.

Dobbernationloves had the opportunity to sit down with Erin Bury, co-founder of Willful who described the inspiration behind the company.

“Like many great businesses, Willful was inspired by a personal experience. My husband Kevin’s uncle passed away suddenly a few years ago, and while he had a will, he had never discussed any other end-of-life plans – we didn’t know his funeral or burial wishes, where important documents were stored, and we found ourselves scrambling to find answers and arguing over choices at a time when we really should have been grieving. That sparked the question of why Canadians do pretty much anything to avoid talking about death; and led us to look into what tech-enabled solutions existed to make that process easier. We found that estate planning is quite an antiquated space, full of lawyers and paper and in-person appointments, and we thought we could streamline that process and make it more accessible. We started with wills since that’s really a must-have, and the plan is to build out other products and services that help with preparing for or dealing with death,” said Bury.

There are several options when it comes to purchasing Canadian online wills. So what makes Willful unique?

Bury shared, “When we started doing our research we did find that there were online will options in Canada, but as consumers who were early adopters of technology, who appreciated beautiful design and intuitive digital experiences, we didn’t see anything that reflected that and appealed to us. We are so used to using platforms like Airbnb, Uber, and Wealthsimple, which place a focus on UX and ease of use, and that’s what we sought to emulate at Willful. In terms of what’s unique, we are one of the only providers that offers free unlimited updates to your will in future, so you can come back and make changes at any time. We are also the only online will provider that offers a fully digital notarial will in Quebec, something we’re very proud of! We’re also the only online will platform that shows provincial diligence with a partner lawyer in each province. And of course we feel that our educational content and customer support helps us stand out – we offer phone, live chat, and email support, so you know you can always talk to a human even though you’re using an online platform.”

COVID-19 has led to an increase in the number of Canadians thinking about estate planning and emergency planning. What trends are the team at Willful noticing in the Canadian online wills industry?

Bury explained, “We’ve seen a big trend of people prioritizing getting these documents done. Our AngusReid research shows that 89% of Canadians under 35 don’t have a will – but a survey we commissioned in summer 2020 showed that 1 in 10 Canadians completed their will due to COVID-19, so there’s definitely an uptick in people of all ages completing these documents. We’ve also seen quite a bit of legal change due to COVID-19 and in-person restrictions – for example, British Columbia passed Bill 21, which will allow for electronic signing of wills, online storage, and virtual witnessing over a platform like Zoom. Right now it’s not legal to sign or store your will online in Canada, which seems pretty crazy since you can do pretty much any other process online. It’s time for Canada to modernize estates law to catch up with technology, and to match what consumers expect in 2021.”

As a Toronto resident I was keen to learn how to make a will in Ontario. Willful made the process easy online.
As a Toronto resident I was keen to learn how to make a will in Ontario. Willful made the process easy online.

Easily Fill Out Canadian Online Wills with Willful

Once I was ready to make a will without a lawyer I signed up for Willful and 5 minutes later received an email that shared a handy 4 step checklist. Once completed your Canadian online will is legally binding:

  1. Speak with the key people impacted by your will. This quick & easy online will checklist helps Willful customers complete their wills in one sitting.
  2. Answer simple questions on Willful, tailored to fit your unique life situation. 
  3. Pay to review your documents and print when you’re ready to make it official. This is required by law for Canadian online wills.
  4. Sign your will to make it legally-binding. Each Willful document comes with detailed instructions to guide you through the streamlined process.

Willful offers 3 pricing plans, which all allow for free edits and updates as your life changes:

  • ESSENTIALS $99: Everything you need to create your own legally-valid will.
  • PREMIUM $149: Full protection with a legally-valid will and appointed power of attorneys.
  • FAMILY $125 per plan: Legally-valid wills and appointed power of attorneys for you and your loved ones. Popular with couples and families as you can prepare 2-6 individuals.

Willful has generously offered our readers a $20 off coupon code. Use DOBBERNATIONLOVES at check out to save on the cost of your online will in Ontario, or across Canada!

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