Wills and Power of Attorney’s – The Basics

It’s a subject matter that many people feel uneasy talking about: Wills and Power of Attorney’s. We never really like to think about the day that we might have to use these documents but they are important to have in order to protect yourself, your family and your assets. Estate planning should be part of your financial plan and we encourage you to have the discussion.

What is a Will?

A will takes effect when a person dies and is a document which sets out a person’s wishes about how their estate (their assets) should be handled after death.

When a person dies without a will, they are considered “intestate” and Ontario laws decide who receives your estate. Dying without a will creates unnecessary delays and could become complicated if there are disagreements between family members.

Who needs a Will?

Anyone who has assets should have a will!

You should also review your will upon important milestones in your life. Have you recently purchased a home, gotten married or had another baby? Important life changes call for a thorough review of your will.

Types of Wills:

  1. Attested Will (or Formal Will) – the most common type of will. “Attested” means that your will is signed by 2 witnesses. They have to witness you signing the will and complete an affidavit stating they saw you complete it in their presence. These witnesses should be people who will not be receiving a gift in the will (or the spouse of someone receiving a gift in the will).
  2. Holograph Will – less formal than an attested will. This type of will is entirely handwritten by the person making the will and must be signed and dated. It does not require witnesses or affidavits. Many issues could arise from this type of will. What if it is missing important legal details or is unclear?

Online wills are becoming increasingly popular because of their low cost and their built in templates. We are not advocates of completing your wills online though. Each person’s situation is unique and should be treated this way when completing your wills. We recommend seeking legal advice when creating your will. The fee to complete your will be roughly $500-$750 and we believe this is a wise investment and will give you peace of mind knowing that your loved ones and your assets are properly taken care of.

What is a Power of Attorney (POA)?

A Power of Attorney is giving someone else the power to act on your behalf if you are unable to on your own. There are three kinds of POA’s in Ontario:

Power of Attorney for Property – Naming someone to take care of your financial affairs if you become mentally incapable.

Non-Continuing Power of Attorney for Property – covers your financial affairs but cannot be used if you become mentally incapable. For example, if you are going away for an extended period of time and you need someone to conduct your financial transactions.

Power of Attorney for Personal Care – Naming someone to make health decisions for you if you are unable to (ie. what medical care you should receive, etc).

It is important to have these discussions with the person that you choose beforehand to make sure they understand your wishes and should be someone you trust to ensure those wishes are met. If you decide not to have a POA, the government may have to appoint one for you, which may or may not be in your best interest.

Are POA’s and “Living Wills” the same thing?

No. POA’s name a specific person to act on your behalf. A living will contains your treatment and personal care wishes but does not name anyone to act on your behalf.

What does “probate” mean?

Probate is the court procedure which approves the last will of the deceased and appoints the executor of the estate. Probate is not always required, depending on your assets and your beneficiaries.

Estate planning should be part of your financial plan. ViewStone Partners can help with this process. Just ask us how.

Contact us for assistance 


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