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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.

5 Misconceptions About Estate Planning in Ontario

Disclaimer: This article on estate planning is intended for the purposes of providing information only and 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 and does not purport to be exhaustive.

When it comes to estate planning, there are many misconceptions out there that have rooted themselves in people’s minds. These misconceptions can be costly and dangerous, so in this article, we are going to set the record straight. 

At Beeksma Law, we believe that estate planning is too important to be overlooked. Estate planning involves preparing for your possible incapacitation or death. It can help ensure your wishes are carried out in a way that meets your goals. If you want to talk about your wishes, please book a call with our team today. 

Misconception #1: I don’t need a will. 

Yes you do. 

About 51% of Canadians do not have a will. Many people think that having a will is only truly important if you are older (25% of Canadians) or have a lot of assets (23%). This could not be further from the truth. Everyone, regardless of their age or financial status, should have an up-to-date will that outlines their wishes.

Here’s the reality: Being young, unfortunately, does not make you immune to death or incapacitation. Not having a lot of assets will not prevent complications with distributing what you do have. Dying intestate (without a will) means that your estate be divided according to Ontario’s laws (such as the Succession Law Reform Act). It also means that your estate will be tied up with the courts longer and be more complicated.

Misconception #2: I only need a will.

Do you have powers of attorney for personal care or for property?

We covered this in a previous article. Simply put, a power of attorney for personal care is a legal document that appoints someone you trust to make decisions about your health care and personal matters if you become mentally incapable of making those decisions for yourself.

Not only are these documents typically overlooked, but they are actually more important than a will in many cases. Practically speaking, it is much easier to prove that someone is dead than that someone is incapacitated.  If you need someone to handle things on your behalf, they will be held up without a power of attorney in place.

(While we are talking about powers of attorney, it is also important to address another misconception. While there can be holograph wills (or handwritten wills), there is no provision in Ontario for holograph powers of attorney.)

Misconception #3: Will kits will do the trick.

We know that the cost of preparing your will and powers of attorney stops many people from hiring an estate lawyer. In fact, you may think that a will kit is the best way to avoid those costs. However, each person and their estate is different and it is vitally important that your legal documents meet all of the guidelines for your specific situation.

Will kits are a one-size-fits-all approach, which means you may be leaving out vital information or making mistakes that may result in confusion, disputes and estate litigation after you’re gone. An estate lawyer is going to know where these complexities are and be able to give you solid advice on  how best to move forward.

For example, let’s talk about those power of attorneys. Some document kits would require that your power of attorney get an assessment done to confirm that you are incapacitated before being able to make decisions on your behalf. However, in the meantime, no one will be able to access your bank account for possibly a month or two. 

In that practical scenario, is that what you want for your power of attorney? Does it make sense to have them be able to use their authority immediately? It will depend on your unique circumstances, which is something we will talk about while preparing your documents. 

Misconception #4: Once I’m done, I’m done.

Your will plan is never going to be a “once and done” project. It is important to review your estate plan regularly. Your life, financial and family circumstances can change over time. Therefore, it is essential that your legal documents are updated accordingly to make sure they remain valid.

We always recommend that you review your estate plan every few year (at the very least), You should also review it after major life changes (i.e. marriage, divorce, having a baby, or the death of a relative or beneficiary).

Also, think about who you appointed as your executor (which we will talk about below) and your powers of attorney. Are they able and willing to act in this capacity?

Misconception #5: Anyone can be my executor.

An executor’s role is vital in settling an estate. Your executor is responsible for seeking out, preserving and managing the assets of your estate. They must determine how much debt you owe and use the assets of the estate to pay off those debts, as well as file your taxes.

This role is not one to be taken lightly and it really is not for everyone. It is commonly referred to as “the year of the executor” because your estate will take up a considerable amount of time for a year after you pass away.  Executors can be family members, friends or professional executors such as lawyers, trust companies, etc. Just make sure it is someone you trust who is willing and able to take on this responsibility.

Estate Planning You Can Trust

At Beeksma Law, we believe that estate planning is too important to be overlooked. Our team of experienced professionals can help ensure you have all the documents in place for after your death or incapacitation, and provide you with peace of mind during this difficult time. We would be happy to discuss any questions you may have. Please book a call with our team today.

Celebrity Estate Mistakes That You Can Avoid

Disclaimer: This article on celebrity estate mistakes is intended for the purposes of providing information only and 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 and does not purport to be exhaustive.

Given that their estates are worth millions of dollars, you would think that they would have teams of lawyers and estate planners preparing immaculate documents. However, the truth is celebrities also make estate planning mistakes just like us regular folk. 

However, you do not have to make those mistakes. Having an estate legal team like Beeksma Law preparing your estate plan, you can sidestep these issues and leave your family with the greatest gift of all: peace of mind. Contact us to book your consultation today!

Let’s consider five well-known names who made estate planning mistakes and how you can avoid them yourself. 

People at a concert illustrating celebrities that we look up to - however, they make estate mistakes too!


The music industry was shocked when Prince passed away in 2016, but it was even more astounding that he did not have a will in place. The courts then had to figure out how to divide his $300 million estate. The courts resolved the issue six years later, surely costing the estate millions of dollars in legal fees.

The lesson? 

You may be thinking, “If I had a $300 million estate, then I would have a will.” However, regardless of the size of your estate, you should still have your wishes down in writing. In the absence of a will, your estate will be tied up by the courts until it can be resolved. It can create confusion and heartache for your loved ones, as they navigate their grief and the legal system.

Heath Ledger

Heath Ledger did have a will when he passed away in 2008. However, he had prepared that will before his relationship with Michelle Williams and before the birth of their daughter, Matilda Rose. He had listed his parents and sister as his beneficiaries, instead of his child, and they inherited his estate. 

The lesson? 

Regularly review your estate plan. We recommend updating your estate plan, at a minimum, on an annual basis, as well as when you experience a major life change. Those life changes could include getting married, divorced, or becoming a parent, as well as less obvious changes such as starting a business or buying a vacation home. 

Casey Kasem

Doctors diagnosed the radio celebrity with Lewy Body Dementia in 2007, and he died in 2014. Strained family relationships led to fights about his care and how to approach the end of his life. 

The lesson

A will is not the only estate planning document that you need as part of your estate plan. Everyone should have two powers of attorney: one for their personal care and one for their property. While you may be young and healthy today, you need these documents to prepare for an event wherein you may incapacitated and would need someone else to step in and make decisions for you. 

Phillip Seymour Hoffman 

Phillip Seymour Hoffman avoided trusts for his minor children, as he reportedly did not want them to become entitled. However, that choice had terrible consequences for his estate. Since most of his estate was left to his long-time partner, it was subject to millions of dollars of estate tax that could have been avoided. 

The lesson

There are tax implications to how your estate is structured. Be sure to speak to a lawyer and accountant to minimize the tax owed by your estate after you have passed. 

Justice Warren Burger

Justice Burger is not a celebrity, but a great example of why you should save doing it yourself for home décor and not estate planning. This former Supreme Court Justice died in 1995 with an estate worth approximately $1.8 million. Given his legal expertise, you would assume that the will that he prepared would be immaculate. However, it failed to give his executors proper powers and left his estate paying unnecessary taxes.

The lesson

If a Supreme Court Justice would have benefited from speaking to an estate lawyer that understands the complex legal issues involved, then we all do. Only someone experienced in this complicated area of law can make sure that you have an estate plan that is practical, secures your wishes as much as possible and gives your remaining family true peace of mind. 

Avoid Estate Mistakes With Beeksma Law

At Beeksma Law, we are passionate about making sure that you avoid estate planning mistakes that will hurt your loved ones. We want you to have peace of mind, knowing that your wishes are properly and clearly documented. 

Whether you have a “Best Actor” Oscar or “Best Mom Ever” mug, everyone needs an estate plan. Book your consultation with our team today to get started on yours. 

Estate Planning for Blended Families

Disclaimer: This article on estate planning for blended families is intended for the purposes of providing information only and 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 and does not purport to be exhaustive.

More than one in four Canadians in a relationship are in their second or subsequent marriage or common law relationship. That means that many of us have experienced a family in more than one context, with more than one partner and, sometimes, with children from each union.

The nuclear family – two married parents, their own children, and sometimes the grandparents – is no longer the only family structure. Increasingly complex family structures mean making increasingly complex decisions, and nowhere is that more true than in estate planning.

If this situation describes you, it is vital that you do not leave your estate planning to chance. A comprehensive estate plan, including a well-written will and powers of attorney, protects your entire family and your own wishes. We strongly encourage you to contact us today about your estate planning needs. Our experienced professionals can create a plan that is tailored for you and that takes into account all of your family members.

In this article, we will talk about how your estate plan will affect various family members, what you ought to take into consideration and how you can give your family the greatest gift of all – peace of mind.

Estate Law Updates

As we previously noted, on January 1, 2022, updates to the Succession Law Reform Act came into effect. A new marriage no longer revokes a previous will. This means that if you remarry and do not create a new will, your new spouse will not automatically inherit your estate.

Children from a previous relationship

You must make specific arrangements to ensure that the children receive what you wish them to have. While you may assume that your spouse will care for your children after you pass, there is simply no guarantee of this.

If you have children from a prior relationship, the executor of your will or estate plan must take into account their situation and appropriately provide for them. You could also possibly create trusts to ensure that they are cared for financially.

Your spouse

You also want to ensure that your spouse is taken care of properly in the event of your death. This can include leaving them a lump sum, setting up trusts, or other financial arrangements. Your will should also consider any special needs your spouse may have and ensure they are provided for.

You may also want to use vehicles such as RRSPs, life insurance, and other investments to provide for them in the event of your death.

When it comes to your home, you may want to add your spouse to the title now. Otherwise, they find themselves in a vulnerable position upon your death. As tenants in common or joint tenants, they will be protected should the home need to be sold.

However, it is not as simple as registering your spouse’s name on title. There are tax considerations to consider. Therefore, you need to make clear what your intentions are with respect to adding your spouse on title. It may mean creating a resulting trust , or setting up a spousal trust to ensure that the house passes in accordance with your wishes.

Finally, your will should detail any special gifts you want to leave to your spouse.

Specific Items

When you create a will, you may want to consider leaving specific items to particular family members. Your will should detail all gifts, from jewellery to artwork or furniture. This ensures that the wishes you expressed during your life are respected after your death.

Estate Planning: Factors to Consider

When your family situation is complex, it is important that you consider all factors when creating your estate plan. How can you mitigate potential disputes between family members? What financial arrangements can you make to ensure that all of your loved ones are provided for? How does the law impact you and your family’s situation?

First, take an honest look at your situation. Do your children get along with your new spouse? Do you get along with your spouse’s children? If you have children together, along with children from a previous relationship, consider how they are related to each other. Consider also how you would like them to be treated in the event of your death.

Second, consider what assets you have and who will be responsible for them upon your death. This could include your home, investments, life insurance policies and personal items with sentimental value. Consider setting up trusts or leaving money specifically to certain family members to ensure it passes in accordance with your wishes.

Third, give careful thought to who will act as your estate trustee. If there are tensions between family members, you may want to consider an independent and unbiased executor.

Fourth, be open and honest with your family about your wishes. Discussing your will or estate plan in advance can help to avoid confusion and disputes after you pass.

Finally, keep your estate plan updated as circumstances change. Make sure your estate plan reflects any significant life changes, such as a new grandchild or changes in marital status.

Estate Planning With You in Mind

Finally, seek professional advice from a lawyer and financial planner to help you navigate these various factors. You want to ensure that your estate plan reflects your wishes as well as minimizes any tax implications for you or your beneficiaries.

At Beeksma Law, we understand that each family’s situation is unique. We strive to provide you with the advice and assistance that meets your needs. With careful planning, proper preparation and expert advice, you can ensure that all of your loved ones are provided for and that your wishes are respected after you pass.

Weathering the Storm: Life Changes

Disclaimer: This article on life’s changes is intended for the purposes of providing information only and 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 and does not purport to be exhaustive.

While life’s changes can happen at any point, they are made much more difficult when they happen during a period of economic instability and uncertainty.

This article will provide some tips on how to weather the storm during life’s changes from a legal standpoint, particularly during periods of economic hardship.

Separation, Divorce and The Matrimonial Home

While there are many factors to consider when a marriage ends, what happens when the couple wants to sell the matrimonial home?

The decision to sell the family home is often one of the most difficult a divorcing couple will face. There are many factors to consider, such as:

– The current market value of the home

– If one spouse plans to keep the home, whether they can afford the mortgage and upkeep on their own

– The sentimental value of the home

– The potential stress of dealing with the sale during an already difficult time

Right now, other issues within the real estate industry complicate this decision. You can see our previous article that goes into this in more detail. However, we are seeing an increase in deals falling through because buyers cannot get approved for a mortgage or because appraisals are coming in low.

Some people purchase a home with other family members after a separation or divorce. If that is the case for you, have you discussed a co-ownership agreement? This document outlines each party’s rights and responsibilities and can help prevent any misunderstandings down the road.

A “Business Divorce”

What is a business divorce? It’s when partners in a business decide to go their separate ways. This can happen for many reasons, such as disagreements on the direction of the company, financial difficulties, or simply different goals for the future.

Like a marital divorce, a business divorce can be a very difficult and emotional process. It’s important to have a lawyer who can help you navigate this process and protect your interests.

Some things to consider:

  • What is the value of the business?
  • How will the division of assets be handled?
  • What does your partnership agreement say?

The Death of a Loved One

The death of a loved one is always a difficult time. In addition to the grieving process, there are often many financial and legal matters to take care of.

You may be impatient to settle the estate and move on, but it is important to take the time to understand all of the implications of your loved one’s death. This is especially true when it comes to taxes. Depending on the size of the estate, there could be significant tax implications.

There is a reason why it is called the “executor’s year.” At the best of times, estate matters take time to work through. Many courts are experiencing backlogs, so it can take even longer.

If you are named as an executor in a will, make sure you understand what is expected of you. However, if you do not have the time or ability to take on this role, you can decline or ask to be removed. If no executor is named, and you are a beneficiary under the will, you may want to consider applying to be the estate administrator to move things along.

Weathering the Storm with Beeksma Law

At Beeksma Law, we are also families, entrepreneurs, homeowners and members of our community. We understand how difficult these times can be and we are here to help.

We offer a free initial consultation to discuss your legal matter and help you understand your options. Please contact us today to book an appointment.