Sunday, October 21, 2007

Wills and Lists of Gifts of Sentimental Items

As I have written before, British Columbia has strict formal requirements for making a valid will. The will must be properly signed and witnessed to be valid.

What if you have furniture and other personal effects that have sentimental value, rather than financial value, that you wish to give to specific people? Do you have to put all of these in your will? What if you make a list that is not witnessed according to the Wills Act requirements?

I think it is common for people to make lists, and change them from time to time. In most cases these lists are not valid wills, and are not binding on your executor. As a practical matter, your executor and beneficiaries of your will may agree to give the items on such a list to the people you intend.

What if you want to make the list binding?

Probably the best way is to make the gifts of articles right in the will. This works best when there are a few items that you feel strongly about. It gets cumbersome if there is a long list.

A second way to make the list binding is to write the list before you make your will. In your will, you can then have a clause that says that your executor is required to distribute these items as set out in your list. The list should be dated, and the will should refer to the date of the list, so it is clear that you made the list before the will. If you make the list after you make the will, the list will not be binding unless it is signed and witnessed according to the Wills Act requirements. If you wish to change the list after you have signed your will, you will need to do a new will or a codicil.

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