A will needs two witnesses, both of whom need to be over the age of 19. A witness can not be a beneficiary. The witnesses do not need to read the will, but rather witness you sign it, and then sign the will themselves in front of you.
You need to be clear about exactly who your beneficiaries are. You cannot say, for example, that you wish to leave your money to hungry children in Africa.
But you don’t have to write down everything. You only need to be specific about articles of great value, either financial or sentimental. For example, you might want to say who should get your grandfather’s gold watch. You may not want to say what should happen to your alarm clock.
A will often isn’t read until after the funeral. So you need to tell someone what kind of ceremony you want when you die, and whether you wish to be buried or cremated.
Joint assets do not form part of the estate, so if you and your spouse own a house together, it automatically goes to the spouse. Information about beneficiaries of RRSPs, RRIFs and life insurance policies don’t usually need to be included because when you purchase these you are often required to select a beneficiary right away.
Your executor is the person you name in your will to carry out your wishes and instructions. Your executor may need a document called a ‘Grant of Letters Probate’ from the Supreme Court to settle your estate.
An executor needs to be a reliable adult, who is not likely to predecease you. You can appoint more than one executor, but keep in mind that these people will need to be able to work together to settle your estate. Most people ask a family member or a close friend to be their executor. You can also appoint a lawyer, a private trust company or the Public Guardian and Trustee as executor.
Being an executor is a lot of work, so choose someone who has some knowledge of financial matters, and is comfortable dealing with government officials.
You can make a new will at any time, or change the will you have in place by signing a separate document called a codicil. The codicil has the same legal requirements as a will. The codicil must be in writing and be signed by you and two witnesses who are not beneficiaries. You don’t have to use the same two witnesses you used for your will.
A simple will does not cost much money and you may find that a lawyer or a notary public is the safest way to avoid mistakes. Ask a lawyer or Notary how much it will cost before you decide to give the job to him or her.
The law does not require that you register you will. However, it is a good idea to register your will because it shows where you have put your current will. You can register your will with the provincial government’s Wills Registry service. To find the nearest office, look in the Blue Pages at the back of the White Pages of your telephone book under Government of British Columbia and Vital Statistics.