When to update your will

Getting a will in place is the biggest step you can take towards ensuring your wishes are carried out after your passing, but it shouldn’t be the last. 

If you’ve executed a will, then you’re in a better position than more than half of your fellow Canadians, who risk leaving their loved ones to deal with the stress and uncertainty of intestacy. 

But there’s not much point in congratulating yourself if the will you’ve got has gone stale and the choices you made no longer make any sense, which is why I recommend clients revisit their estate plan every couple of years. 

If you can’t commit yourself to that kind of frequency, then big life events or major relationship changes should prompt an update to your will – think the birth of a child, marriage, divorce, or a major change in net worth.

Until recently, Ontarians who married were forced to revisit their estate plans because provincial law automatically revoked the existing wills of either spouse at the time of their nuptials under s. 16 of the Succession Law Reform Act

From January 2022, newly married spouses will be able to keep their previously prepared wills in place after the passage of Bill 245 at Queen’s Park, which officially repealed the old-fashioned provisions in s. 16. Still, there’s a good chance you’ll want to make changes, especially if it’s a second or third marriage or if you have children from a previous relationship.

On the flip side of the marriage coin, an estate plan review is a must following a separation or divorce. Other Bill 245 amendments have taken some of the work out of it by eliminating certain property rights of separated spouses who are still named in their former partners’ wills, but the SLRA has no impact on beneficiary designations for things like life insurance or pension plans. 

Tying the knot isn’t the only relationship change that should prompt a fresh look at your will though. Once a partner becomes common-law, estates law in Ontario offers no automatic entitlements to them, but they may be able to make a claim for dependant’s relief against your estate if they’re not properly provided for in a will.

Still, it’s not just changes in your own situation that you should be concerned about: the lives of your preferred executor and beneficiaries will evolve over time, and they may not always be as suitable in those positions as they were when you first picked them. 

Disclaimer: The content on this website is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice or an opinion of any kind. Users of this website are advised to seek specific legal advice by contacting members of Laredo Law (or their own legal counsel) regarding any specific legal issues.

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