Components of a Will

A Will is a legal document that sets forth your instructions about what it is you wish to have happen with your belongings on your death, including your investments, real  property (such as your house and cottage), shares in a private company, and other personal possessions (such as jewelry, cars, art, etc). In order for a Will to be effective, it must be properly drafted and executed, otherwise it may be contested after your death. There are a variety of components and key terms within a Will.

Components of a Will

Testator: You are the “testator” of your own Will. This means that it is you who has written the Will, and provided instructions for how your estate is to be managed.

Executor: There needs to be someone to make sure that the Will is carried out in accordance with your wishes after you die, and that person is appointed as the “executor” of the will. In some cases it is appropriate to appoint more than one executor. Duties of an executor include safeguarding the estate, paying your debts, and dividing your estate among the “beneficiaries” that you have named in your Will to receive the property of your estate. Your executor should be someone that you trust and has the capabilities to take on this position. Choosing your executor should not be done lightly as the role is time consuming and comes with significant responsibility.

Considerations for Minors or Children with Special Needs: There are special considerations in making a Will if you have any minor children or children with special needs. This includes the appointment of a guardian and oftentimes a trustee:

  • Guardians: If you have any children under 18 or any children with special needs, it is important to appoint a “guardian” when making a will. This guardian will take care of the child should you die before they reach 18, or while the child requires special needs. The most important consideration in appointing a guardian is the best interests of the child, and if the guardian does not meet this standard, a court will appoint someone who does.
  • Trustees: Because young children and children with special needs are generally not financially responsible enough to receive inheritances directly, the inheritances can be paid in trust for them but administered by a trustee chosen by you. Generally, the trustee will be given the authority to determine how to manage the assets of the trust and how and when to distribute funds to the children. It is important to choose a responsible trustee to manage the trust on the childrens’ behalf.