Nfld. & Labrador·The Lowdown

How to make a will — and why you should

The Public Legal Information Association of Newfoundland and Labrador said it's important to have a document that clearly states what you want to happen to the things that you own, after you pass away.

The Public Legal Information Association of NL says it's important to have your wishes in writing

Kevin O'Shea, executive director of the Public Legal Information Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, said when you make a will, you should also consider making two other legal documents: an enduring power of attorney and an advance health-care directive. (Darryl Murphy/CBC)

Do you have a will?

According to the Public Legal Information Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, it's important to have a document that clearly states what you want to happen to the things that you own, after you pass away.

Here's The Lowdown from Kevin O'Shea, the association's executive director, on how to make a will, and why you should make one.

"Having a will that is done properly, that clearly shows your instructions, will greatly reduce the time, the cost, the uncertainty, and the potential conflict for your family, after your death," he said.

O'Shea said if you don't have a will, your estate will still be distributed to family members — but it might not be as you would have wanted.

If you don't have a will at the time of your death, O'Shea said your estate will still be distributed to your family, but it may not be done the way you would have wanted it. (CBC)

"It will be done according to a law called the Intestate Succession Act, which sets out a formula for how your estate will be divided up," he said. 

"What that means is you do not have control anymore about where the things you own will go after you die."

Requirements for a will

O'Shea said there are some basic requirements for a will in Newfoundland and Labrador:

  • It must be in writing (video/audio recordings don't count).
     
  • The person making the will must be 17 or older.
     
  • That person must be free of pressure from others, and have the mental capacity to create/sign the legal document.
     
  • The will must be signed by the person making it.
     
  • It needs to be witnessed by two people who aren't named as beneficiaries.

A lawyer isn't required to be involved in the making or signing of a will, but O'Shea suggests a person should seek legal advice.

"A lawyer's advice can be very helpful for making sure that your will is completed properly, that it reflects your instructions and your wishes, and that you're not forgetting about any assets that you own," he said.

CBC Investigates speaks with Kevin O'Shea from the Public Legal Information Association of Newfoundland and Labrador about why it's important to have your plans for your estate in writing. 2:25

O'Shea said, when making your will, it's also important to think about who to choose as the executor.

"An executor is the person you're going to name in your will who will be responsible for wrapping up your estate after you die and carrying out the instructions that are listed in your will," he said.

"This should be a careful consideration and a discussion you have with that person. When you're creating your will, it's a big responsibility — and can be a lot of time and effort for the executor to take on that responsibility."

Other documents to make

If you're making a will, O'Shea suggests that you should also consider making two other legal documents: an enduring power of attorney and an advance health-care directive.

When choosing a power of attorney, O'Shea said you'll be picking someone who will be in charge of your legal and financial matters, if you lose the mental capacity to do it yourself. 

A will, an enduring power of attorney, and an advance health-care directive … help us plan ahead for the future when we will no longer have control over certain decisions in our life.- Kevin O'Shea

An advance health-care directive is naming a substitute decision maker, who will make health-care decisions if you're no longer able to do so.

"[It] also lets us list instructions about health-care treatments and procedures, such as Do Not Resuscitate orders or refusal of certain treatments, like artificial feeding and hydration, and refusal of other health-care procedures based on religious or personal beliefs, for example," O'Shea said.

"Making a will, an enduring power of attorney, and an advance health-care directive at the same time is a good idea, because all three of these documents help us plan ahead for the future when we will no longer have control over certain decisions in our life."

O'Shea said anyone with further questions about this process can contact the Public Legal Information Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Lowdown is a series from CBC NL Investigates about consumer news you can use. If you have a story idea, email us: cbcnlinvestigates@cbc.ca.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

About the Author

Jen White

CBC News

Jen White is a reporter and producer with CBC News in St. John's.