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A will is a document that leaves instructions about what you want done with your personal possessions and land after you die.
If you die without a will on-reserve (also called "dying intestate"), the Indian Act determines how your assets will be distributed, not you or your family. Without a will friends, charities, or other beneficiaries cannot inherit from your estate. Only family can inherit.
Having a will ensures that your wishes will be carried out. It will ensure that your loved ones are provided for. Be sure to consider making arrangements for care of your children and pets. Consider all of your possessions when making a will (e.g., money, vehicles, books, pieces of art, furniture, land, livestock and keepsakes). You can only gift your land to someone who is a member of your First Nation.
Writing a will is free, unless you go through a lawyer (or a notary in Quebec). It doesn't have to be complicated.
By making a will, you can:
provide for your loved ones, your children and grandchildren
decide who will get your home and property
clearly state who should receive your personal possessions (such as jewellery, vehicles and money)
leave instructions about who will take care of your children and dependents
leave instructions for end of life ceremonies
name who will take care of your estate
A will may:
avoid delays in settling your estate
reduce administrative paper work for your family at a difficult time
make the settlement of your estate a more personal matter
provide peace of mind and clear direction about your wishes to your family and loved ones
reduce INAC's involvement in your private affairs
What needs to be in a will?
The Indian Act outlines what should be included in your will.
If you live on-reserve, a valid will must:
be in writing (you can write your own or use a form available from various sources, e.g., will kits, websites)
be signed and dated by you
state what you want done with at least one of your possessions
state that it takes effect after your death
Ideally, a will should also:
be signed by two people who witnessed you signing your will
Your witnesses should be adults who are not beneficiaries or the spouse of a beneficiary.
list the full names and addresses of your beneficiaries
list all of your assets and where they are located
assets include all of your property and personal possessions and effects for example, land, bank accounts, jewellery, commercial licenses, crops, animals, investments, vehicles and buildings
list all of your debts, how much they are worth and who holds them
list your wishes regarding who should inherit each of your assets
list the other items that you wish to give to specific people, including special items of sentimental value
leave instructions for who should care for your children and dependents
Do you possess land on-reserve?
If you possess land on reserve, you may wish to include directions in your will for how the land should be divided after your death. The Indian Act states that you can only gift your land to someone who is a member of your First Nation.