What Happens if a Person Has Multiple Wills in Ontario? 

If you have multiple wills that purport to deal with the same asset in different ways, only one will be found valid and given effect after your death. Generally, when you prepare a second will, it replaces the first (older) will. If your will is prepared by a lawyer, it will contain words to the effect that it replaces any previous wills.

However, if done properly, multiple wills may be used strategically for estate planning purposes. For more information on what happens if a person has multiple wills in Ontario, contact our Richmond Hill wills and estates lawyers.

Benefits of Having Multiple Wills in Ontario

When is the multiple will strategy used in Ontario? Generally, there are two reasons:

  1. When the testator has assets in different jurisdictions (other provinces or countries), it is often easier to have a will for each jurisdiction. That way, each will can be prepared by a professional who practices in the relevant jurisdiction, and the probate and distribution of the estate may often be simpler and less expensive. For instance, your primary will might deal with your Ontario assets, and a secondary will might deal with the condo, bank account and vehicle that you own in Arizona, where you spend the winter.
  2.  In some situations, multiple wills can be an effective mechanism for reducing probate fees. Probate fees are calculated based on the total value of your estate, but not everything needs to be probated. Shares of a business are one example of an asset that generally does not need to be probated, but that might be very valuable. By dealing with the distribution of the shares under a different will, you can minimize probate fees. In this case, your primary will would deal with the assets that need to be probated, such as real estate, and your secondary will would deal with those that do not.

An allocation clause in your wills can authorize your executors to determine, after your death, which asset is dealt with under which will.

Are There Any Risks? 

If not carried out properly, having multiple wills can force your executors or beneficiaries to seek instructions from the court, which can be disappointing if your intention in having multiple wills was to save your loved one’s time and money. Ambiguity in an allocation clause may result in the court overriding your wishes.

How to Ensure That Your Multiple Wills Distribute Your Estate According to Your Wishes

Hiring a professional (or multiple professionals, when dealing with assets in different jurisdictions) to prepare your multiple wills, may help ensure that mistakes are not made. A professional may be responsible for:

  • Verifying that your multiple wills work together, rather than against each other
  • Ensuring all your assets are dealt with (nothing is left out)
  • Evaluating estate tax considerations from all relevant jurisdictions
  • Checking that the overall effect of the multiple wills meets your intentions for the distribution of your estate
  • Confirming that one will does not carry the unintended effect of revoking another.

Contact our Richmond Hill Wills and Estates Lawyers Today for a ConsultationWriting a will can be a challenging process, requiring many considerations that can be at once emotional and confusing; the drafting of multiple wills may compound the challenges. Collaborating with a wills and estates lawyer may help clarify the specific requirements and rights of your unique case and help to make sure you are planning for the future with clear information. Whether you have general questions about wills and estates, or are looking for help determining if having multiple wills is a good strategy to incorporate into your estate planning, contact us to book a consultation with our Richmond Hill wills and estates lawyers today.

* Please be advised, the information in this article does not constitute legal advice. It is intended as a general overview on a legal subject. For legal advice, please consult with a lawyer.