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Holographic Wills in Ontario

Holographic wills are handwritten wills that don’t require witnesses. Here’s what you need to know about holographic wills in Ontario.

Posted on May 18, 2022 by Luisa Rollenhagen
Holographic Wills In Ontario

A legally valid will is one of the most important things that you can have when planning for the future, although just over half of all Canadians don’t have one! While it’s understandable that no one particularly enjoys thinking about death, a valid will ensures that your loved ones are protected after you’re gone, and that your wishes and your property will be respected and cherished. However, sometimes a situation arises where a holographic will comes into play.

What is a holographic will?

Despite the name, a holographic will isn’t some advanced technological innovation that lets you beam in a will from anyplace in the world. Instead, a holographic will simply refers to a will that’s handwritten and has only been signed by the writer. No witnesses, no witness signatures, no typed and printed document.

As you can imagine, this is not an ideal scenario for a will. A proper will should be carefully reviewed, go into specific details in order to avoid any confusions or conflicts when your estate is being settled, and should be updated regularly, especially after major life events such as marriages or births.

A holographic will, on the other hand, is often written during an emergency, where there isn’t much time to gather witnesses or review all of your assets. It’s also important to note that not all Canadian provinces and territories recognize a holographic will. Ontario is one of the provinces that admits holographic wills.

How to write a holographic will

Writing a holographic will is very easy. The main requirements are that the will is written entirely by you, per hand. It is also recommended that testators include that they are of sound mind and weren’t pressured to make the will, since holographic wills are easier to contest due to the lack of witnesses.

The will must be signed and dated by the testator. Anything written under the signature is not considered part of the will, and will not be admitted into a court. The inclusion of typed documents or text is also not permitted and won’t be considered valid.

Note that a handwritten will isn’t automatically a holographic will. If a will is handwritten but meets all the requirements of a traditional will—including the signatures from witnesses—then it’s not considered to be a holographic will.

Who should write a holographic will?

If it were up to us, everyone would have a traditional, legally valid will with proper witnesses. However, life doesn’t always work that way. The only reason someone should write a holographic will is if they’re in an emergency situation, such as on their deathbed, and don’t have a traditional will nor the time to gather witnesses. Otherwise, we highly recommend everyone take the time to make a proper will and cover all of their bases.

Pros and cons of a holographic will

While a traditional will is the recommended option when it comes to making a will, there are some advantages to a holographic will:

  • Less time and effort. For a holographic will, you only need a pen and a sheet of paper. You don’t need to find witnesses and have them sign your will. Instead, the only signature required is your own.
  • Flexibility. You can include as much or as little as you want in a holographic will, although you should always aim to include as much detail as possible to avoid disputes later on.

But make no mistake. The disadvantages of a holographic will are not to be overlooked:

  • Can lead to confusion. If your handwriting is unclear, then it can leave your heirs and your estate executor scrambling to understood what you meant when you wrote that “Uncle Charlie gets your own card collection.” This can cause conflict among your heirs, and potentially lead to your will being contested or even declared invalid.
  • Greater risk of loss or damage. Since a holographic will is usually written in a time crunch, there are unlikely to be copies. Similarly, your will may not be stored in a secure place, leaving it to be damaged or lost. If that’s the case, then a court will determine you to have died without a valid will.
  • Risk of forgetting important details. A major risk of a holographic will is simply forgetting to cover an important asset or leave a loved one with an inheritance because it gets written in such a hurry. Taking the time to go through your belongings and really consider your wishes is often not possible with a holographic will.
  • Legality can be an issue. Since holographic wills aren’t recognized by some jurisdictions, you may face the risk of having your will thrown out because the province or territory doesn’t recognize holographic wills as a rule.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where in Canada are holographic wills valid?

As mentioned before, holographic wills aren’t valid in every province or territory. In Canada, holographic wills are legal in Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec, New Brunswick, Newfoundland,and Saskatchewan. Holographic wills are not valid in British Columbia and Prince Edward Island.

Can a holographic will be revoked?

Yes, just like with any other will, a holographic will can be revoked if it’s found to be invalid or compromised. If a later will is discovered and found to be valid, a holographic will can be revoked, as can a holographic will that has been damaged or improperly made.

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