Category Archives: Wills

November is Make A Will month

Fall is in the air. The sun is setting earlier, the leaves are changing and it’s cool at night.

Fall is a time for gathering the harvest and anticipation of winter. It’s a time for looking after things, canning, storing, putting things in order for later use.

There is no better time of year than this to do your Will and Powers of Attorney, which are important tools in planning and managing your life and finances.

We are here to explain the process, answer questions, get you started and help you complete the process. These two articles have some useful tips about why Wills are important and how to get started.

The Ontario Bar Association is responsible for the November Wills month program:

The law firm Hull & Hull have posted this useful article about the importance of wills and powers of attorney.

The Artist’s Will

Creators need to plan just like the rest of us do. More so even. Creative people (not just artists but designers, inventors and company founders) have creative output, whether a drawing, sonata, patent or brand, which are a particular kind of assets. A little more etherial perhaps, by property nonetheless. (Why it is called “intellectual” property, no doubt.) These assets are subject to financial valuation and taxation and estate administration (probate) fees the same way that real property is, and so, should be dealt with in your estate plan.

Not dealing with these assets in a will can give rise to more than the usual confusion and disputes among heirs, who, in the absence of instructions and tools to deal with your work, may be confused about what to with stacks of watercolours or notes for a novel or the drawings of that widget you invented.

A few recommendations for creative people (and the sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters of creative people) are:

  1. Make a separate will just for the creative work (or business, or collection). This can avoid the necessity of complicated and expensive evaluations and estate taxes. Same for anyone with a cottages, properties in other jurisdictions or other high value assets;
  2. Appoint an Executor who knows something about the creative work or business. Their knowledge will be put to good use and they are more likely to do a better job because they understand the value of the work in its creative context, including what it is worth and who will be interested in owning, conserving or collecting it;
  3. Give the Executor control over the copyrights as well as the things in themselves; copyright survives you by 50 years in Canada and can be a significant benefit. Even if the dollar value of your work is not that great today, you don’t know about tomorrow or 100 years from now, and in any event controlling how and where the work is reproduced can be very important.
  4. Consider making specific gifts to specific people. Family, friends and colleagues will appreciate being asked if they would like to have special things like art work, just make sure it is optional and provide an equally good alternative if they decline.
  5. Consider gifting creative work, sketches, notes, correspondence or other materials related to the creative practice to a public museum or university. But note: Museums do not accept gifts just because they are given; they will have to be asked and negotiations may ensue, so it is important to have someone who knows the terrain asking them. Universities are similarly discerning but often are just as interested in personal papers as they are in finished works for their archives and collections. (If you have been corresponding with Margaret Atwood, somebody is going to be interested in her letters to you, if not yours to her:)



If you’ve read this far, I have a question for you. Would it interest you to write your own will in calligraphy? stork_calligraphyHow cool would it be to write your own will in a form that actually looks as olde as we think the practice of making wills is arcane? Perhaps a calligraphy class/will-writing workshop could be organized… I’d like to know your thoughts. Please use the comment form below. Thanks!

Another miscellaneous thought:

Artists tend to think they don’t have enough stuff, or enough stuff that is valuable enough, to warrant having a will. But, like for most people, a will isn’t about how valuable your stuff is. It is about who will look after what you have and properly giving them the authority to do that and instructions to help them along.

Artists suffer many clichés, including that they are poor, or poorer than average. Artists get particularly caught up in a general cultural confusion about value and wealth. It is not that wealth is not necessarily material, or that some kinds of wealth are better than others. I don’t personally believe there has to be a trade off between material “real” wealth and immaterial “unreal?” wealth. Artists no more hold a monopoly on fulfilling experiences than they do necessarily suffer materially for their art. We need to get over such mythical misconceptions.

Which is not to say that wealth doesn’t matter. Alan Watts has a pretty enlightened perspective on what constitutes value, “True wealth is the sum of energy, technical intelligence, and raw materials,” which tells us that every sort of creative person produces things of value that should be dealt with respectfully, like through a well-drafted will.



Wills for folks on fixed incomes

Wills aren’t just for people with money. Even if you live on a fixed income and don’t have much in the bank or many possessions, you should have a will.

Here are some good reasons why:

  • a will appoints someone to be in charge of wrapping up your affairs when you’ll not be there any more to do it yourself. This person is called your Executor because they “execute” on your wishes;
  • a will can specify the kind of funeral and burial you would like, which is a nice thing to do, but also can be very important if you want particular things or your religious beliefs require certain things;
  • if you want to be cremated, a crematorium may need to see the will to make sure that is actually your wish;
  • banks, investment companies and even your phone company may need to see a will before they will close your account or release funds to anyone other than you;
  • Everyone comes from somewhere and a will can be a place to list next of kin so someone can contact them when your time has come;
  • even if you don’t have many things, someone needs to look after them and your family and friends may be confused about who should be in charge; your will clearly makes someone responsible.
  • giving a special momento or something of sentimental value to a child or special friend can have great meaning to them;
  • even a small sum of money given to an organization or cause you support can make a real difference, creating a lasting legacy.

elderly-person-holding-pills-in-handBut if you are on a fixed income, we know money is tight. It can be hard to get a will done affordably. We have a special plan for people on fixed incomes. We can’t do it for free but we’ll come as close as we can. Please use our C
Contact form to get in touch.

Consider natural burial

If you want to be environmentally responsible to the very end, natural burial is definitely the way to go. It’s gaining in popularity. There’s even an association to promote the practice.

The frightening environmental impacts of cremation are well-described in this article: Should I be buried or cremated?

Natural burial eliminates the need for embalming, heavy preservation-oriented sealed caskets and much of the pomp and circumstance around funerals. As importantly, natural burial grounds are being used in conjunction with restoration planning and conservation management techniques. According to Joe Sehee, writing for PERC, the Property and Environmental Research Centre in Bozeman, Montana, allocating a forest as a natural burial cemetery is “a powerful new tool for protecting endangered habitat at a time when innovative, market-based solutions are sorely needed.”

What your remains are buried in can have environmental consequences too. Consider the dyes and chemicals in many fabrics. You could even consider the impacts of cosmetics, soaps and medications such as antibiotics you may have been using or taking.

Another “last thing” you can do for the environment is to bequeath something to a charity, cause or project you believe in. If you choose to do this in your Will, be sure the party preparing it names of the organization exactly, including in their business number, e.g. The Bruce Trail Conservancy, BN 119217578RR0001.

Natural burial grounds use only natural markers that don’t intrude on the landscape. These natural markers can include shrubs and trees, or a flat indigenous stone, which may be engraved. As in all cemeteries, there are careful records kept of every interment, mapped with a GIS (geographic information system).

Geo-caching is a interesting technology that is seeping into the culture. I think I’d like my remains to geo-cached somewhere in the Canadian Shield, a small cairn someplace distant but not unreachable, so visiting them would be an adventure for my loved ones.

Even Anglicans are cottoning on to it: “geo-caches may be a good way to encourage visitors into our churchyards.”

Perhaps in our perfectly ecologically-balanced future, we will journey, or our bodies will be delivered, far into the vast Canadian wilderness where our solar powered, 100% decomposable phones will broadcast a final signal: “Lat: 52° 11′ 8.1918″ Long: -86° 50′ 9.3732 – Peace out.”

Geographical coordinates seem to be all we have left of Louis XIV.

In Ontario there are three certified natural burial sites: Union Cemetery in Cobourg Ontario, Meadowvale Cemetery in Brampton Ontario, and Duffin Meadows Cemetery in Pickering, Ontario.

IMG_0950.JPGIn 1952, David Brown started building this house on Kootenay Lake in B.C. entirely out of glass embalming fluid bottles, saving 500,000 of them from the landfill.

I’m young, single and don’t have much stuff. Do I really need a will?

Yes, you do. There are many good reasons.

The first reason is because without a will, it can be difficult for anyone to deal with things like closing bank and other types of accounts, e.g. email, websites, phone, Google, Facebook, or to make funeral arrangements or decisions about cremation or burial.

Another good reason is that these days single people can often be closer to non-family than family. You may want your close friends and companions to look after things as well as have some or all of your stuff.

Yet another good reason is that you can leave something to the good causes you believe in. Imagine if everyone did this. Even modest legacy gifts would add up to make a difference.

A will does not have to be complicated but everyone you care about will benefit from the clarity you create by having one.

Below are more particulars about the legal rules of inheritance in Ontario.

In Ontario, if one passes away without a will, the laws of intestacy dictate who inherits that individual’s assets. These rules are governed by Part II of the Succession Law Reform Act. Where a person dies intestate and leaves no spouse or issue, their property is distributed in the following order: parents, brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, and finally, next of kin. Where a person dies intestate with none of the mentioned relations surviving, their property escheats to (i.e. becomes the property of) the Crown.

“Depending on the person, the rules of intestacy cannot be assumed to adequately reflect an individual’s wishes. Without a spouse or children of their own, the individual likely formed bonds in the community that are not reflected by the rules of intestacy. For example, close friends or the children of close friends may be a more practical choice.

“Single persons may also have preferred charities or other social or community activities they belong to that they wish to benefit that will only benefit under a will.

– above from here.

DIY WIlls: Your handwritten (holographic) will may be valid, but the critical thing is the form.

Lawyers will advise against writing your will yourself. Although a handwritten and signed will can be legally valid, they are not wrong to warn you. Unless you know the formalities of Wills and are careful with the language, there’s real risk your DIY Will won’t do what you want it to, or be legally valid at all.

A happy story of a beautifully hand-crafted Will is that of James Smithson, whose will created the venerable Smithsonian Institute, a treasure forever for the people of the United States:

“James Smithson wrote a draft of his Last Will and Testament in 1826 in London, only three years before he died. He died on June 27, 1829, in Genoa, Italy, where he was buried in a British cemetery. The will left his estate to his nephew, Henry James Hungerford, and stated that if his nephew died without an heir, the money would go ‘to the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge ….’ After his nephew died without an heir, Smithson’s estate did come to the United States and a debate began about what this new institution would be.”

Latin: the importance of “legal” language

Latin is a lovely language. Here’s an example of the kind that graphic designers use as a placeholder where the actual text is going to go: “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Maecenas non rutrum orci. Vestibulum nec justo nunc. Sed ornare, libero eu blandit tristique, turpis enim volutpat metus, posuere rutrum magna mi non mi. Nulla vitae est ut nunc fermentum laoreet. Mauris ac urna id urna elementum congue et sit amet neque. Maecenas porta neque massa, in pharetra nunc commodo ac. Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Proin dictum urna leo, in aliquet magna pulvinar eu.”

Wills don’t need to be written in Latin, but they do need to be clearly written, unequivocal about what they mean. For example:

Continue reading Latin: the importance of “legal” language