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After You’ve Made a Will

After you’ve made your Will it’s important to make plans for safekeeping. It is also important to review your Will from time to time and understand how certain life events, such as marriage and divorce can affect it. Other changes in your personal life may prompt you to make changes to your Will or cancel it altogether.

Safekeeping a Will

A Will should be kept in a safe place where your Executor can easily locate it after your death. Care should be taken to protect it from being accidentally destroyed or lost.

If you have a lawyer prepare your Will, they may offer to keep the original copy at no additional cost. You should be provided with a copy of the original Will to keep with other important papers that your Executor may need. The copy should indicate contact information for the lawyer who prepared the Will. Your Executor can obtain the original copy from the lawyer after your death and is not under any obligation to use that lawyer's services.

Queen's Bench courthouses throughout the province also provide for safekeeping of a Will for a small one-time fee (currently $10). You can take your Will to the nearest Court of Queen's Bench - the original will be sealed and kept there. You will be given a certificate to keep with your other important papers, indicating the whereabouts of your original Will. A copy of the certificate is also filed in a central registry at the Court of Queen's Bench in Regina.

Reviewing a Will

Many people put off reviewing a Will even more than they delay making one in the first place. However, a regular review of your Will helps make sure that it still does what you want it to, in light of changing circumstances in your life.

Some experts suggest a periodic review every two to five years. At the very least, you should review your Will when significant events occur in your life, such as...

  • ending or entering a spousal relationship
  • your children reaching the age of 18
  • your child or other dependant becoming ill or disabled to the extent of needing long-term financial support, even into adulthood
  • beneficiaries predeceasing you
  • your children entering or leaving spousal relationships
  • new children coming into your family, including grandchildren
  • changing financial circumstances, such as receiving an inheritance or selling your business

Entering or Ending a Spousal Relationship

If you make a Will and later marry or live in a spousal relationship for two or more years your Will is invalid, unless you indicate in the Will that you are making the Will in contemplation of the marriage or spousal relationship. This general rule does not apply where a testator makes a Will while living in a spousal relationship and later marries that spouse.

Ending a spousal relationship can also revoke or cancel your Will or parts of it. For example, if you name your spouse as your Executor or leave part of your estate to your spouse, those parts of your Will are revoked or cancelled after you divorce, or after 24 months of separation in the case of other spousal relationships, unless you expressly say otherwise in your Will.

Cancelling or Changing Your Will

When Wills were type-written codicils were a convenient way to make a change without re-typing the entire Will. Today Wills are generally written with word-processing software that allows changes to easily be made to the original. This may be preferable to avoid any confusion or dispute over the changes.

Wills come into effect only after your death, meaning that beneficiaries under a Will have no interest in your estate before your death. During your lifetime you can change or cancel your Will whenever you like. You can cancel your Will by doing any of the following...

  • physically destroying your Will with the intention of destroying it
  • writing and signing something that indicates that you are changing or cancelling your old Will - if this writing is not entirely in your own handwriting the change must be witnessed by two individuals
  • making a new Will

Minor changes to a Will are usually done by making a codicil. A codicil can be a separate document made in addition to your Will. Changes may also be made directly on your Will. If the changes are made entirely in your handwriting and signed by you, no witnesses are required. However, if the changes are not entirely in your own handwriting, the changes must be signed by you and two witnesses. In either case it is not sufficient to simply initial the changes. The signing formalities are the same as when the Will was originally prepared.

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