When you attend at your lawyer’s office to draft a Will or multiple Wills, and Powers of Attorney for Property and Personal Care, she or he will ask a number of questions.

Generally speaking, your lawyer is likely to ask for a general description of your assets, how you own such assets and whether there are designated beneficiaries named on any of your accounts.  He or she is also likely to ask for personal information such as information related to your occupation, date of birth, citizenship, religious beliefs, marital status, identity of any dependants and whether any named beneficiary is the recipient of ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program payments).

As you continue on in the estate planning process, some questions you may be asked include,

  1. Whether you have a marriage contract, cohabitation agreement or separation agreement,
  1. Whether you own shares in the capital of a private corporation and if so whether you are a party to a shareholders’ agreement,
  1. Whether you own personal property of significant value,
  1. Whether you are the owner of intellectual property rights (stay tuned for my future blog on intangible assets and estate planning!), and
  1. Whether you have assets in different jurisdictions.

As your lawyer receives answers, more questions will often follow.

Some of these questions may seem too personal.  Further, you may question whether they are really necessary.  The answer is yes, these questions are necessary.  Not only will the answers to these questions inform the drafting process – for example, if you own personal property of significant value or shares in a private corporation, there are advantages to having multiple Wills, and special provisions should be included if a beneficiary relies on ODSP – but your lawyer is also required to ask these questions to assess your capacity to make a Will. After all, in order for a Will to be valid, the person executing the Will must have had capacity to make the Will.

The advantage of having a qualified estate planning lawyer draft your Will is that she or he will not only know what is required in order for a Will to comply with applicable law, she or he will also be able to take the information you provide and recommend structures that support your needs and end goals. An estate planning lawyer will know what questions to ask.

As an aside, it is important to remember that estate legislation varies from Province to Province. Therefore, if you want to know whether you have a valid Will in Ontario, you must consult with an estates lawyer qualified to practice law in the Province of Ontario. The good news – if you require advice with respect to multiple jurisdictions, your lawyer can get you in touch with the appropriate person to answer your questions.

Overall, for those of you who haven’t yet had your Will drafted or whose Will is out of date, as we head into November – also known by members of the Ontario Bar Association as Make a Will month – take a moment to consider the above questions and gather the above information so that you are ready to meet with a qualified estate planning lawyer!

For more information on what makes up a complete estate plan, visit my previous blog, Estate Planning and End of Life Decisions: 5 Questions to Consider.

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