Area of Law: Wills, Estates and Powers of Attorney
Answer # 147
When does a Will take effect and can it be changed?Region: Ontario Answer # 147
Your Will takes effect upon your death, and can generally be changed or revoked at any time while you are still alive.
Selling property mentioned in your Will
Because your Will takes effect only upon your death, you are free to sell your property whenever you like and without the consent or permission of the person who is supposed to receive that property under your Will. Selling property mentioned in your Will does not cancel your Will. It just means that your beneficiary does not receive that piece of property. Everything else in your Will remains valid.
Making changes to your Will: Codicils
If you want to make some minor changes to your Will, you can do so without writing an entirely new Will. You do, however, need to write a formal document. You should not simply scratch out certain parts of your Will and write in your changes. This is usually not legal.
A formal change to your Will is called a “codicil.” A codicil is a document that cancels certain parts of your Will, or adds new parts to your Will. It should refer to your Will, and say specifically what is being changed. It needs to be prepared in the same way that a Will is prepared. If your codicil is typed, it needs to be signed by you and two witnesses. The two witnesses must both be present when you sign. They do not have to be the same two people who witnessed your original Will. If you have handwritten the entire codicil, then you do not need to have witnesses. You just need to sign it yourself. All codicils should be dated.
Although there is no limit on the number of codicils that you can have, if you find that you have made a lot of changes, you should write a new Will. This will avoid confusion caused by having several different documents.
Cancelling your Will
You can also revoke your Will completely. Revoking a Will means to cancel it. If you want to cancel your Will and not replace it with anything right away, you can make a Codicil which says that you are cancelling your Will, or you can physically destroy your Will by tearing it up.
If you die without making a new Will, your property will be distributed as if you had died without a Will. If you want to cancel your Will and replace it with another Will, you can do this by writing a new Will because most Wills include a clause near the beginning that says that all earlier Wills are cancelled.
For more information about Wills and Estate Planning, visit the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General website.
For legal advice and help in changing or cancelling your Will, or in preparing Powers of Attorney, contact our preferred Wills & Estate lawyers and see who’s right for you:
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