November 2003
Top 10 reasons why it is not wise to write your own will

Although some provinces accept a handwritten, self-made will (called a "Holograph" will), it is risky to do it yourself. The cost of having a will prepared professionally by a lawyer or notary is far less than people imagine.

Here are just some of the common mistakes which can be made when individuals handwrite their own wills:

  1. Any wills written previously are not formally revoked.
  2. There is often no alternate Executor named.
  3. Frequently a family member or friend is given a bequest, but then there is no consideration for what happens to this gift if the person predeceases the author of the will.
  4. Most people who write their own wills do not make sufficient provision for the person administering your Estate. For example, the power to sell and convert assets to cash, etc.
  5. On several occasions the language a person uses in making a homemade will can be vague or misinterpreted.
  6. Often people take certain things for granted; for example, that their children will outlive them.
  7. Favourite non-profit organizations such as a health charity are not identified properly.
  8. People may instruct to give a particular item to a friend or relative, but no consideration is given to what happens if that gift does not exist at the date of death.
  9. Sometimes a house is left to a spouse, in trust for example, but then there is often no mention of who pays the expenses for upkeep of the property during the lifetime of the beneficiary.
  10. Last, but not least, don't make the mistake of assuming because you have typewritten your own will that it is a valid Holograph will. A typewritten will has to follow the usual formalities of a prepared will, such as witnessing and signing as required by law.

If a will is not done properly, the things you have worked hard for all your life may not be looked after in the manner you would have wished — not to speak of the confusion left behind for loved ones, at a time when they are least able to cope with such difficulties.

If your so inclined bequesting part of you estate to a charity or group you may wish to ask them to provide you with a information package that describes how the bequest is to be used. The more prominent charities such a The Heart and Stroke Foundation, The Canadian Cancer Society and environmental adversarial organizations like Greenpeace Canada have developed booklets to help you understand how the put the donations to work.

The following links are provided for your consideration.

Greenpeace Canada
Canadian Cancer Society
The Heart and Stroke Foundation

Other items of interest from FiscalAgents.com:

Learning Certre - Estate planning
Why You Need an Estate Plan - 10 Simple steps
Structuring an effective will

With files from NC