Why Do I Need a Will?

Do you have a will? Only half of Canadian adults ages 18 to 65+ have written their wills.[1]  And less than 9% of First Nations people living on reserve have a will when they die.[2]

When I talk with people about whether they have a will, the older they are, the more likely it is that they have prepared their will.  With young parents, often the response is, yeah, I really should do my will, especially because I have kids now.  In my younger years, writing a will was not even on my radar, but it should have been.  When I had kids and a mortgage, priorities shifted, and I made sure to have a will that included the appointment of a guardian.

So, why does someone need a will? If you do not have a will, the provincial rules of intestacy apply.  For a First Nations person ordinarily resident on reserve, the Indian Act[3] outlines what happens when someone dies without a will.  Whether under federal or provincial law, without a will:

  • you cannot choose the beneficiaries of your estate.
  • you cannot choose the executor/trustee who will administer your estate.
  • if you die leaving children who are under the age of 18, they will not benefit from the flexibility of trusts that can be set up through the will.
  • you cannot indicate who you prefer to be the guardian(s) of your children.
  • you and your beneficiaries may miss out on tax savings when you die and following your death.

Writing a will forces you to think about many important issues and scenarios. There are questions asked that most people cannot answer off the top of their head.  And shouldn’t! Deciding whether your 5 year-old will have the maturity at age 18 to handle a large sum of money takes a lot of thought and deliberation. Maybe an inheritance should be deferred until they are older.  Choosing a guardian holds challenges too – what if the grandparents you would trust to parent your children develop early onset dementia? Who is your second choice? And what if your ideal choice refuses to take on such a large commitment? The reassurance of being able mitigate situations ahead of time and provide for your beneficiaries is worth taking the time to ask some tough questions now.

Edwards Bell Jewitt LLP creates wills and powers of attorney for indigenous people, living on and off reserve. Call us at 807 344 1112 or email me at dawne@ebjlaw.ca if you have any questions about doing your will or powers of attorney.

[1] Angus Reid Institute. March 7, 2023. Online link: “Lacking the Will:  Half of Canadians say they don’t have a last will and testament, including one-in-five ages 55+”  See link in article for more statistical analysis.

[2] Government of Canada. Online link: “Do you have a will?”

[3] Indian Act, RSC, 1985, c I-5.


Written by Dawne Mowbray

Edwards Bell Jewitt LLP