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Wills and estate planning

How to write a will Add to ...

There are generally two types of wills: handwritten (called a “holograph” will) and typewritten. Different provinces have different requirements for what makes a will valid. The requirements for Ontario are described below.

1. Handwritten will

For a handwritten will to be valid, it must be entirely in your own handwriting, signed by you and dated. No witnesses are necessary.

If you choose to handwrite your own will, have a lawyer review it. What you think are clear directions may not be to someone else, and your will could be contested or misinterpreted.

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2. Typewritten will

A typewritten will is usually prepared by a lawyer. It must be signed by you and witnessed by 2 individuals who are both there when you sign it. These individuals cannot be beneficiaries or spouses of beneficiaries under your will.

If a typewritten will is not properly witnessed, it is invalid and provincial estate laws will apply unless you have an earlier, valid will.

Your mental capacity when making your will

A will is invalid if you did not have the mental capacity to sign it when it was made. A beneficiary – or a close family member who was left out of the will – could challenge it in court on the basis that you did not know and understand the terms in your will.

For this reason, avoid preparing a will during a temporary period of physical or mental frailty or illness. Wait until you have recovered before preparing a new will. If you can’t wait, get your doctor to prepare notes on your mental capacity. These notes can help prove that you were mentally fit to make a will if it is later challenged. A lawyer can also take notes on your mental capacity.


Content in this section is provided in partnership with Investor Education Fund, a non-profit organization founded and supported by the Ontario Securities Commission that provides unbiased and independent financial tools to help Canadians make better money decisions. To find out more, go to: GetSmarterAboutMoney.ca

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