A Will is considered the guiding legal document in the administration of an estate; it’s where you log your wishes and choices for how property and possessions are to be distributed when you pass away. In putting together your Will, it’s important to walk through a range of details and considerations, as well as how your decisions may impact family members or your estate in general. Taking the appropriate steps will help ensure your Will accurately reflects your wishes and intentions in the most effective way.
Will planning checklist
The following checklist is intended to assist you in preparing your Will plan. This checklist should be reviewed if you are currently preparing your first Will.
Note: This list focuses on major items and is not exhaustive. Given that each individual’s situation is different, it is crucial you consult with your qualified legal, tax and estate advisors to ensure your circumstances are properly accounted for.
- Have you identified and listed all of your assets and liabilities?
- Have you considered both your non-digital and digital assets?
- Have you identified an executor or co-executors who can effectively act on your behalf? Have you also identified an alternate executor(s)?
- Have you asked your chosen executor if they wish to fulfill this responsibility? (Keep in mind that the executor’s duties can be significant, so it’s important for them to understand the potential scope of the responsibilities and the length of time required.)
- Does your executor know where your Will is/will be kept?
- Have you decided what degree of discretion you will allow the executor (e.g. a broader range of investment options or the ability to liquidate assets at their discretion)?
- Have you identified your intended beneficiaries (e.g. family members, charities or others) and determined the gifts you want to leave them?
- Have you identified a specific beneficiary for your registered assets (e.g. RRSP, RRIF or TFSA) or life insurance policies? Registered assets, such as an RRSP or RRIF, left to a surviving spouse or, in certain circumstances, to a financially dependent child or grandchild can be transferred on a rollover basis, deferring a significant tax liability.
- If you’re making reference in your Will to beneficiaries of registered plans or life insurance policies, are these beneficiary designations in your Will consistent with the specific beneficiary designations on the plans or policies (except in Quebec)?
- Have you considered the use of testamentary trusts for your spouse or for adult/minor children?
- Have you considered staggering the distribution of an inheritance to your children? (This will depend on the size of the inheritance and the child, but you may want to pro-rate the distribution over several years.)
- If you have any minor children, have you named a guardian and alternate guardian for them?
- Are there any loans or debts owed to you by family members that you would like to forgive at death?
- Are there any special circumstances that need to be considered within your Will (e.g. children from a previous marriage, a common-law spouse, a pending divorce or bankruptcy of a beneficiary)?
- Have you prepared a memorandum outlining the distribution of your personal effects?
- Have you considered the implications of your provincial or territorial family or marital property laws, if applicable?
For gathering and recording a complete list of your family’s pertinent financial information, RBC Wealth Management’s The Family Inventory is a useful guidebook you can use to help ensure all assets are accounted for and considered. Remember, this information should be stored safely and securely (e.g. in a password protected electronic file or in print in your safety deposit box), and make sure your executor is aware of it.
Did you know?
According to a recent poll by Angus Reid Institute, 51 percent of Canadians don’t have a Will in place. Of those who do have one, only 35 percent say theirs is up to date.1
Will review checklist
If you already have a Will in place, keep in mind that it’s just as important to ensure it remains up to date and that it still reflects your wishes and intentions. Beyond specific life events, it’s generally a good idea to review your Will every three to five years.
Note: This is not an exhaustive list. If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, you should review your Will with your legal advisor to determine if changes are necessary.
- Since your Will was created, have you been married, divorced, separated, or have you started a relationship with a new partner?
- Has a spouse or significant beneficiary died since your last Will was created?
- Have you had any additions to the family, such as a child or grandchild, since your last Will?
- Changes to your financial position at any life stage should be a trigger for reviewing plans. Has your net worth significantly increased (e.g. with an inheritance) or decreased (e.g. because of bankruptcy) since you prepared your last Will?
- Have you or a beneficiary moved to a different province or territory or country since you prepared your last Will?
- Have you acquired significant new assets, such as a cottage, business or farm, since you prepared your last Will?
- Are your chosen executors or trustees still appropriate?
- Are your named guardians for your minor children still appropriate?
- Do you wish to add or remove any beneficiaries?
- Do you wish to change the terms of distribution to any of the beneficiaries?
- Have there been any changes to relevant legislation since your Will was created (e.g. changes to the Income Tax Act or provincial or territorial family law legislation)?
For more information on Will planning and when to review your Will, please read the Fall 2017 Perspectives article “What’s in a Will?”.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the executor role, the Fall 2017 Perspectives also includes the article “A matter of informed choice.”
- “What ‘will’ happen with your assets? Half of Canadian adults say they don’t have a last will and testament.” Angus Reid Institute poll results. Released January 2018. http://angusreid.org/will-and-testament/.
This document has been prepared for use by the RBC Wealth Management member companies, RBC Dominion Securities Inc.*, RBC Phillips, Hager & North Investment Counsel Inc., RBC Global Asset Management Inc., Royal Trust Corporation of Canada and The Royal Trust Company (collectively, the “Companies”) and their affiliate, Royal Mutual Funds Inc. (RMFI). *Member – Canada Investor Protection Fund. Each of the Companies, RMFI and Royal Bank of Canada are separate corporate entities which are affiliates. “RBC advisor” refers to Private Bankers who are employees of Royal Bank of Canada and licenced representatives of RMFI, Investment Counsellors who are employees of RBC Phillips, Hager & North Investment Counsel Inc. and the private client division of RBC Global Asset Management Inc., Senior Trust Advisors and Trust Officers who are employees of The Royal Trust Company or Royal Trust Corporation of Canada, or Investment Advisors who are employees of RBC Dominion Securities Inc. In Quebec, financial planning services are provided by RMFI which is licenced as a financial services firm in that province. In the rest of Canada, financial planning services are available through RMFI, Royal Trust Corporation of Canada, The Royal Trust Company, or RBC Dominion Securities Inc. Estate and trust services are provided by Royal Trust Corporation of Canada and The Royal Trust Company. If specific products or services are not offered by one of the Companies, clients may request a referral to another RBC partner. The strategies, advice and technical content in this publication are provided for the general guidance and benefit of our clients, based on information believed to be accurate and complete, but neither the Companies, RMFI, nor Royal Bank of Canada, nor any of its affiliates nor any other person can guarantee accuracy or completeness. This publication is not intended as nor does it constitute tax or legal advice. Readers should consult a qualified legal, tax or other professional advisor when planning to implement a strategy. This will ensure that their individual circumstances have been considered properly and that action is taken on the latest available information. Interest rates, market conditions, tax rules, and other investment factors are subject to change. This information is not investment advice and should only be used in conjunction with a discussion with your RBC advisor. None of the Companies, RMFI, Royal Bank of Canada nor any of its affiliates nor any other person accepts any liability whatsoever for any direct or consequential loss arising from any use of this report or the information contained herein. In certain branch locations, one or more of the Companies may carry on business from premises shared with other Royal Bank of Canada affiliates. Notwithstanding this fact, each of the Companies is a separate business and personal information and confidential information relating to client accounts can only be disclosed to other RBC affiliates if required to service your needs, by law or with your consent. Under the RBC Code of Conduct, RBC Privacy Principles and RBC Conflict of Interest Policy confidential information may not be shared between RBC affiliates without a valid reason.
® / TM Trademark(s) of Royal Bank of Canada. RBC Wealth Management is a registered trademark of Royal Bank of Canada. Used under licence. © 2020 Royal Bank of Canada. All rights reserved. Printed in Canada.