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Wills and Estate Planning

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Checklist for Making a Will

Steps To Help You Prepare 

1. Gather and review all the documents related to your estate.

2. List key documents such as:

  • Birth, death, marriage and divorce certificates
  • Deeds and mortgages
  • Bank account numbers
  • Investment portfolio account numbers
  • Insurance policy numbers and
  • Funeral plans and burial lot information.

3. List your advisors such as banker, lawyer, accountant, investment dealer, and insurance agent.  Include company names and addresses.   

4. Make sure your family and executor(s) know where this information is located.  Some of it may be needed right after your death.  Don't keep it with the will.

What to Consider When Making Your Will

  1. Who will you select as executor and, if you wish, co-executor?  Consider naming an alternate executor in case the executor is not able to act.  Speak to these people to be sure they will agree to act.
  2. Do you want to leave bequests?  Bequests are specific items of personal property (such as car, jewelry, china, silver, art, furs) or a sum of money that you wish to leave to a specific person.
  3. To whom do you wish to leave the remainder of your estate?  Spouse?  Children?  Charities?  Is it to go directly or through a trust?  If it is being left to children, are they to receive it immediately or at some future time? 

    Note: If children are minors, you might want to specify a certain age.
  4. How do you want your estate distributed?           
  5. If one of your children has died at the time your will takes effect, do you want his or her children to receive the deceased child's share, or do you want it to go to your other children?
  6. Who will you name as a guardian for dependant children or disabled adult children?  Make sure the guardian agrees to act!
  7. If you are in a second marriage and both of you have children from previous marriages you may wish to consider the available options.  For example, the remainder of your estate can go to:
    1. your spouse absolutely
    2. your children absolutely
    3. your spouse for his or her use while alive, and then, after your spouse dies, to your children or
    4. your children and the children of your spouse
    It is very important that you and your spouse discuss the various scenarios and agree upon your plans.
  8. In the event that a minor (child, grandchild, great-grandchild, niece or nephew) inherits a share of your estate, who do you want to be the trustee of that minor's share?
  9. If one of your beneficiaries is dead, who do you want to receive their share?
  10. Are you going to have a Power of Attorney prepared at the same time you make your will?  If so, consider the following:
    1. Who do you want to act on your behalf (this person is called your attorney)?
    2. Will the attorney's power be limited and specific or broad?
    3. Do you want the attorney to have power to act if you should become incompetent? 
    4. Do you want to name somebody in your Power of Attorney to make decisions about your personal care if you become incompetent?
    5. If you include a Power of Attorney for Personal Care, will you name the same person that is handling your financial affairs?


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Disclaimer: Please note that our website contains general information about the law. This is not a complete statement of the law on particular topics. We try to update our publications often, but laws change frequently so it is important for you to check to make sure the information is up to date.  The information in our publications is not a substitute for legal advice. To receive legal advice about your specific situation, you need to speak to a lawyer.