Your Will is unique to every individual. It is a legal document expressing how you want to distribute your assets and who should care for your dependents. But the creation of any Will should follow a similar procedure.
1. Make sure you can legally write a Will
There aren't a lot of requirements for you to be able to write a legally binding Will. When you create and sign your Will, you need to be:
- The legal age to write a Will in your province
- Mentally able to write a Will, known as being "of sound mind." It means you understand what the Will is and what it will do. It also means you know–in a general sense–what kinds of assets you own and who you're leaving your assets to.
2. Decide how you want to split your assets
A big chunk of your Will sets out how you want to distribute your assets when you die.
A common misconception of estate planning is that you have to list everything you own and assign every single thing to a specific person.
That’s not how Wills work—and what a nightmare it would be if it was! Imagine having to revise your Will every time you sold a piece of furniture or bought a car.
Instead, you should list only the things you want to give to specific people—called specific gifts. These can be items of monetary value, like an expensive watch or a sports car. They can also be things of sentimental value, like family photos or treasured letters.
The rest of your estate goes into a pool of funds, including everything you didn’t list as specific gifts, like possessions, bank accounts, and real estate property. You then can say who gets which portion of this pool of funds.
3. Decide who you want to care for your children
One of the most important things parents can do to protect their children is plan who will take over as their guardian(s). Guardians are people who step in to care for your children in the devastating (but unlikely) event both you and your spouse die while they are still minors.
When you think about who would be best suited to be your children’s guardian(s), there are a few questions to ask yourself.
Will the person or family be able to devote the time, energy, and money my children need?
As any parent knows all too well, children are a lot of work. They need love, care, attention, and lots of financial resources. Guardians must be able and willing to provide for all aspects of their needs if you and your spouse aren’t around.
Does the person live far away from where my children are now?
The impact of moving far away to be with their guardian can vary depending on how old your children are.
If your kids are older and have established lives and friends where they are, uprooting them can be very disruptive to their development. But if your kids are very young and haven’t become too attached to a particular place, they might not mind moving.
What are the guardian’s religious or spiritual convictions? What are their moral values and views on education?
You should also consider whether your children’s potential guardian shares your values and beliefs on how to raise kids.
Will they make the same decisions you would have made about your children’s religion? What about the type of schooling they receive? Should get lots of guidance or get free rein to make their own choices?
These are important details to think about when choosing a guardian.
Does your potential guardian know what you’re asking them to do? Do they agree to take on the responsibility?
Always talk to your guardian to let them know you want them to care for your children if you and your spouse both die. Also, make sure they are willing and able to take on that role if necessary.