I Want to Write a Will

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A will is a legal document that takes effect upon your death. The main purpose of a will is to say who will get your property (land and personal possessions) when you die. If you are the sole guardian of a child or children, a will can be used to name a new guardian at the time of your death.

A will should also appoint an executor — a person who will ensure your debts are paid, your property is protected and your wishes are carried out.

First steps[edit]

  1. Make a list of your property (land, vehicles and other possessions).
  2. Decide who you want as an executor of the will. You should also consider naming an alternate in case your first choice is unable to act as executor or complete the job.
  3. Speak to a lawyer or get a self-help guide. A good one is the Write Your Legal Will in 3 Easy Steps from the Self-Counsel Press. It is available at most Service BC (Government Agent) offices and many bookstores and public libraries. The People's Law School has an excellent online booklet, Writing Your Will.
The law about wills and estates can be quite complicated, so it is always best to get advice from a lawyer or notary about your will. However, if you can’t get advice from a lawyer, it is better to write a will using a self-help guide than to not have a will at all.

What happens next[edit]

Your will needs to be witnessed by two or more persons who are age 19 or older. You should not have your will witnessed by a person you are giving a gift to under it, or his or her spouse. (Ordinarily, a gift to a witness or his or her spouse is invalid, in which case the person you intend to benefit will lose the gift.) You must sign your will at its end in front of the witnesses, who must be present at the same time. The witnesses must also sign your will as witnesses in front of you and in front of each other.

You need to store the original in a place where it will be safe. It is a good idea to let your executor know where you will be storing your will. You may also wish to give your executor a copy of it.

Finally, you should file a Wills Notice with the BC Vital Statistics Agency. The form can be picked up at most Service BC (Government Agent) offices or completed online at Vital Statistics Agency Application Forms; scroll down to "Wills" and click on "Application for Filing a Wills Notice." The fee is $17. When you die, your executor is required to do a search for any wills notices in the Vital Statistics Registry.

Where to get help[edit]

See the Resource List in this Guide for a list of helpful resources. Your best bets are:

Before meeting with a lawyer or advocate, complete the form Preparing for Your Interview included in this Guide. Make sure you bring copies of all documents relating to your case.

The law about wills is somewhat different if you are a registered Indian ordinarily resident on an Indian reserve. You can write a holographic will (one that does not require witnesses); however this will may not be legal if you do not reside on reserve at the time of your death. There are also restrictions under the Indian Act about to whom you can leave your land on reserve. The procedure for probating a will or administering an estate is also different. An Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada Estates Officer can provide information about estates on reserve. Toll-free: 1-888-917-9977.
This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Stan Rule, March 2017.

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