The 5Ws of Will Writing

By Jennifer Stebbing

Woman Signing Document

A Will is your legal voice after you pass. It communicates how you want your property to be distributed, how you want your loved ones to be taken care of, what causes you want to support, and more. Without it, your wishes may not be honoured, and things could be very difficult for those you leave behind.

A Will is a living document that should be updated from time to time, in order to reflect changes in your life. Revising a Will can be as easy as simply adding a new clause to your document. So, whether you have a Will or are just considering putting one in place, here are the 5Ws for Will writing. 


Who do you want to receive your estate? It can be anyone of any age or an organization of importance to you, whether that is a charity or something else.

Who will be your power of attorney – someone who has the legal right to act for you if you become mentally or physically unable to act for yourself? You will need to choose one power of attorney for your property and finances, and one for health related matters (known as a Protection Mandate in Quebec). And finally, who is going to administer your estate after you are gone? You will need to choose an executor (known as a liquidator in Quebec) to carry out the terms of your Will.


Do you want to leave money or an asset?  You may want to be strategic about which parts of your estate you give to whom in order to maximize tax benefits. For example, you can transfer what’s left of your RRSPs or RRIFs tax free to your spouse. Or did you know most charities can accept transfers of publicly traded securities?  This can increase the tax deduction your estate will receive for the donation.


Are your assets located in Canada or elsewhere around the world?


When should a beneficiary receive their inheritance?  Are there any dependent children and should a trust be set up?


What is your reasoning behind your gifts?  Do you want to leave something meaningful for your family, or a legacy for future generations? 

The process is easy as 1, 2, 3!

  1. Choose a trusted Wills and Estates lawyer, or notary if you live in Quebec, who will likely start with a simple estate planning questionnaire.  It will help them know more about you and what you want to accomplish.  
  1. Sit down with them to discuss your answers.  Talk about who you want to leave your estate to, and if you want to include a charitable gift in your plan.  If you haven’t already spoken to your financial advisor about relevant tax saving strategies, you can explore that with your legal advisor as well.
  1. Finally, your legal advisor will draft the documents for your review. Be sure to do a thorough review of everything before signing. You will want to make sure that the details are as you agreed. 

If you are in Ontario, one of our Wills and Estates lawyers at Ross & McBride can take you through this process. 

If you have any questions on any of this, or would like to discuss your estate, please get in touch:   [email protected]

Jennifer Stebbing

About the Author

Jennifer Stebbing

Jennifer Stebbing is a Partner, and practices predominantly in the area of estate planning, administration and accounting.