Why is it important to have a will?

A will is a document that leaves instructions about what you want done with your personal possessions and land after you die.

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Why should you have a will?

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.

Infographic: Do you have a will?

By making a will, you can:

A will may:

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:

Ideally, a will should also:

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.

The transfer of land can be affected by the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act or by your First Nation's laws about matrimonial real property on reserves. Your band council should be able to help clarify what laws apply to your situation.

When should you make changes to your will?

You can change your will as often as you like. In fact, it is a good idea to read it over from time to time to make sure it is accurate and up-to-date.

You should change your will when:

You should always date and initial all changes or additions and have them witnessed.

Do you need a lawyer to make a will?

You do not need to have a lawyer (or notary in Quebec) to help you write your will. However, you may wish to consult one if your estate is complicated. For example, if you:

Where should you keep your will?

After your death, INAC will need to have the original will to help settle your estate.  You may wish to keep your original will in a safe place such as:

You should tell your executor or someone you trust where you stored your will. Banks will usually allow your executor to take your will from a safety deposit box.

If you live on-reserve and need more information on making a will, please contact INAC Public Enquiries.

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