What should I do with my will after it’s been signed?

Disclaimer: This article on what to do after making a will in Ontario is intended for the purposes of providing information only. It is to be used only for the purposes of guidance. This article is not intended to be relied upon as the giving of legal advice. It does not purport to be exhaustive.

Creating your estate documents (i.e. your will and your powers of attorney) is an important step in protecting your future. This process can be time-consuming and requires a lot of thought.

After all, you must decide who will be the executor and your attorney under your powers of attorney. You also likely had to consider some decisions unique to your family. This could include second marriages, the family cottage or whether you wanted to make any charitable contributions.

Once you sign your estate documents, you can’t forget about them. You must ensure that you store them safely and securely so that they will be available when needed.

This article will outline what you must do once you sign your documents and some best practices to keep in mind. At Beeksma Law, we have helped many clients prepare their estate documents.

An image showing items representing making a will in Ontario, such as safety deposit box keys, a will, etc.

What are properly executed estate documents?

First of all, let’s review what it means to have your documents properly executed.

The first step is to ensure that you have the original copies of your will, power of attorney for property and personal care properly executed. You should sign your will in front of at least two witnesses, who must also sign the document along with you.

The witness can be almost anyone over 18 years old, as long as they are not a beneficiary, the spouse of a beneficiary or your executor. While digital signatures are invalid, since COVID-19, wills can be witnessed virtually, so long as one of the witnesses is a licensee under the Law Society Act and the making or acknowledgment of the signature and the subscribing of the will are contemporaneous. This simply means that when a testator signs a will, the witnesses must be present, whether that is physically or virtually.

Handwritten (or holograph) wills have slightly different signing requirements. These must be dated and signed by the testator (the person creating the will). It does not require witnesses and anything gifts listed after the signature are not valid. You cannot create handwritten powers of attorney.

There will typically also be an affidavit of execution signed by the witnesses confirming they witnessed you signing the documents.

Where should I store my estate documents?

When you pass away, you want your executor to be able to access it as quickly as possible. You also want to make sure that the document is secure.

Some people choose to purchase a fire and waterproof file folder that are fairly inexpensive. They then store this folder at their home and let their executor know where it is located.

Sharing the location of your estate documents

The only person who needs to know where your estate documents are located is your executor. You do not need to tell any of your family members or beneficiaries where it is located and what it contains.

Should I store my estate documents in a safety deposit box?

We don’t recommend it. While a death certificate may be enough to let your executor access your safety deposit box, if you were to become incapacitated, it could create a catch-22 for your executor. They may need to prove to the bank that they have the right to access the contents of the safety deposit box; however, that proof is located inside the safety deposit box.

Creating and updating your estate plan

At Beeksma Law, we understand the importance of creating a secure and up-to-date estate plan for yourself. We are here to help you create and review your will or powers of attorney. You can also make updates to your documents as needed over time.

If you want to learn more about taking the next steps in planning your estate, contact us today. We look forward to helping you secure your family’s future.

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