Preparing Your Will: Step-by-Step
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Stephen Hsia in January 2019.|
Step 1. Choose your executor
Your will names a person, the executor, to carry out your instructions in the will.
Discuss your wishes with the executor, including your wishes for organ donation, burial and cremation, and your funeral service.
Step 2. Write the will
With good do-it-yourself materials, you can write a simple will. The will can take care of basic concerns, such as leaving a home, investments, and personal items to loved ones. The Where To Get Help section below lists a number of do-it-yourself resources.
Having your will prepared by an experienced estates lawyer or notary public is the safest way to avoid mistakes. Knowing your will is properly drafted can give you peace of mind. You can be confident your affairs will be handled according to your wishes.
Getting advice from a lawyer or notary is particularly important when there are features such as a blended family, a charitable gift, property outside of British Columbia, a family business, a desire to hold property in trust for someone, or a wish to leave certain people out of your will.
Getting professional help to prepare a basic will isn’t as expensive as some people think. Ask an estates lawyer or notary how much it will cost. You should be able to get some free quotes. Feel free to shop around.
Step 3. Sign the will
For a will to be valid, it must be signed on the last page by the will-maker.
The signature must be witnessed
You must sign the will or acknowledge the signature as yours in front of two witnesses. The two witnesses must then sign the will in front of you. You and the witnesses should initial each page of the will in front of each other.
The witnesses don’t need to read the will. All they need to do is watch you sign your name to it, and sign it themselves in front of you.
If you can’t sign the will because of illness or disability, you can ask someone to sign it for you. That person must sign the will in front of you, and in front of the two witnesses.
Who can be a witness to a will?
The two witnesses must be age 19 or over.
It’s good practice for the witnesses not to be people — or the spouses of people — who are executors or beneficiaries under the will.
That said, a witness may be able to receive a gift under a will. The witness must apply to court and show you intended to make the gift to them. If the court isn’t satisfied, the witness can’t receive the gift. Either way, the remainder of the will isn’t affected.
Step 4. Keep your will in a safe place
The original copy of your will is one of your most important documents. You should store it in a safe place that’s fireproof, waterproof, and tamper-proof. Under the law, a lost will is considered to have been destroyed and cancelled.
Tell your executor where you keep your original will. They need to be able to access it easily after your death.
Step 5. Register your will
You can choose to register your will with the provincial government’s wills registry. While the law doesn’t require this step, it’s a good idea. It lets others know where the original copy of your will is kept.
To register your will, you need to file a wills notice with the wills registry. This is a form that says you’ve prepared a will and where it’s kept. You don’t provide a copy of the will to the wills registry, just the wills notice.
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