Why it's 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 you should you have a will

If you’re a First Nations person who dies without a will while living on a reserve, the Indian Act determines how your assets will be distributed, not you or your family. Without a will, friends, charities or other beneficiaries can’t inherit from your estate. Only family can inherit.

Having a will ensures your wishes will be carried out and your loved ones are provided for. Be sure to consider arrangements for the care of your children and pets. Consider all your possessions when making a will, for example:

You can only gift the land you possess on a reserve 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 Québec. It doesn't have to be complicated or costly.

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 a reserve, a valid will needs to:

Ideally, a will should also:

If you possess land on a reserve

If you possess land on a reserve, you may want 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 the land that you possess on a reserve 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 reserve. Your band council should be able to help clarify what laws apply to your situation.

When you should 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’s 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 don’t need to have a lawyer, or notary in Québec, to help you write your will. However, you may want to consult one if your estate is complicated. For example, if you:

Where you should keep your will

After your death, we will need to have the original will to help settle your estate. You may want 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 a reserve and need to find out more about making a will, email Estate Services or call Public enquiries.

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