Do I Need a Lawyer to Write a Will?

Most people can safely prepare their own wills without the cost of retaining a lawyer. However, there are some situations when it is recommended you do retain a lawyer. This article explains which situations will need a lawyer’s help.

You should consult a lawyer if you are:

  • about to be married;
  • separated or are in the process of getting divorced;
  • the owner of a large, complex estate;
  • very old or suffering from mental or physical disabilities;
  • not of legal age;
  • born or married under a community property system (Quebec and Washington State residents);
  • involved in a common-law or same-sex relationship;
  • the parent of a child or children born out of wedlock whom you are not supporting;
  • residing in a province or country in which you are unsure of the regulations (different jurisdictions have different rules regarding the validity of wills);
  • the owner of real estate outside your province or country of residence;
  • disinheriting a child or spouse; and/or
  • concerned or unsure about the particulars of your will.

So I need a lawyer. Do I need a book?

The answer to that depends on how well prepared you want to be. The lawyer you retain will do his or her best to help you understand your options and to understand the legal rules for wills. Just remember, the time your lawyer spends teaching you is time you will be charged for.

If you want to have a foundation of knowledge about estate planning, preparing a will, and preparing health-care directives, we suggest you read Write Your Legal Will in 3 Easy Steps, our most comprehensive book on the subject. It does not deal with the complex issues listed above; it does deal with the topics the average Canadian needs to know and it will help you understand what your lawyer is saying.

Why do I need a will?

It is important that you make a will for the following reasons:

  • To ensure that your bequests (gifts) are passed on to the proper person(s)
  • To avoid leaving your relatives with costly paperwork and lawsuits after your death
  • To allow you to choose appropriate individuals as your child(ren)’s adoptive parents or guardians
  • To prevent your estate from going to the provincial government

What books do you offer?

Write Your Legal Will in 3 Easy Steps is our most comprehensive book on estate planning, writing wills and preparing medical directives. It covers all provinces and territories except Quebec. The book contains blank, tear-out forms for preparing a simple will plus a CD-ROM with blank forms for simple and advanced wills.

For people looking for a quick, easy, basic guide, our Complete Canadian Wills Kit is an inexpensive choice which is based on a CD-ROM, covers all provinces and territories except Québec, and contains blank forms.

To see all the wills-related books and forms we offer, click here.

12 thoughts on “Do I Need a Lawyer to Write a Will?

    1. You do not _need_ a lawyer to write up your will if you are in a common-law relationship, but consulting a lawyer before you write your will could be helpful. The status of common-law relationships has been changing in both provincial and federal laws in recent years. While the changes are positive (stronger recognition of common-law relationships and the rights and obligations of partners in those relationships. For examples, see our articles on recent changes in BC and Alberta wills laws) the rules in each province can be different depending on whether each has updated its laws and whether each as assigned the same rights and obligations.
      Richard Day
      Self-Counsel Press

  1. Our wills and power of attorneys were done 14 years ago in British Columbia at a Notary.
    We are now in Ontario.
    Do we need to update the will or add a codicil to it or altogether make new wills? Does it have to be done through a lawyer?
    Thank you!

  2. Iam living with someone to whom is not fully divorced yet.(alberta) he wants to have some life insurance for him to go to me. and has some assests of such.
    Now my concern his that his former wife could take that from me. How does things work when you are seperated?

    1. So long as your partner remains legally married, his wife retains various legal rights to the assets of the marriage, whether or not she is living with him and would be able to challenge any distribution from the estate to you. Richard DayPublisherSelf-Counsel Press

  3. In general, it is always wise to update your will when events happen that potentially change what is described in the will. These include the birth of a child, the sale or purchase of a home or other investment, a change in marital status, and, yes, a change of province.Unless you have a large and complicated estate, you do not need a lawyer or notary; you can do it yourself. Simply re-write your wills and powers of attorney to identify your new provincial address and any other changes to what you want to distribute. We have inexpensive do-it-yourself wills kits (Write your Legal Will in 3 Easy Steps is the most detailed) and our Power of Attorney Kit deals with all provinces except Quebec. Our kits come with forms you can use. We have been providing lawyer-written do-it-yourself legal books and forms kits to Canadians since 1971. Richard DayPublisherSelf-Counsel Press

  4. I have been separated for 13 months and should be divorced very shortly. My children are all over 18. I have a copy of my will from 1999 that I had a lawyer prepare. Can I make revisions to this will so that I am not leaving anything to my ex myself, or do I have to use a lawyer? If I can revise it myself, do I need a Commissioner for Oaths or someone else to sign it?

    Thank you!

    1. Wendy, you can certainly revise your own will and do not need a lawyer to do it (Unless you have complicated asset holdings). The simple approach for a simple will would be to use a forms kit such as the ones we sell, and rewrite the will. Most of your current will's content will probably apply in the new will; the parts you will want to change would be the sentences dealing with the distribution of assets, naming who will receive things instead of your ex-husband.

      You do not need a Commissioner for Oaths. Canadian law requires that two competent adults witness you signing the will (they should both be in the room to witness your signing). Witnesses should ideally not be individuals who will benefit from the will in any way. They do not need to see the content; all they are required to do is sign as witnesses on the final page, under your signature. Most people ask friends to be witnesses.

      Richard Day

  5. My mother thought she had sold additonal cemetary plots to my sister. Turns out the cemetary board does not recognize the sale. Can she just put a witnessed letter with her will bequeathing the plots to my sister? There would be no chance another family member would contest it.

    1. Yes, if there is no likelihood of a family member contesting the bequest, a letter with the will should work.Richard Day

  6. I am in a common law relationship for 2 years now with a woman I love. I would like to state her as my executor and her 18 year old son as beneficiary to my cottage and my car and my life insurance policy and all my RRSPs. Will I need a lawyer for this as I am common law with the boys mother ?

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