Ultimate Guide to Wills for Canadians Immigrants (Updated for 2022)
Did you know Canada’s population is made up of over 20% immigrants? And the country is on track to welcome 300,000 immigrants annually — one of the highest rates in the world.
The to-do list for those coming to start a new life in an unfamiliar country can seem daunting (and long!). You need to find a place to live, a job, and so much more.
But once you complete the top priorities, a Will is one of the next important items on that to-do list. And while some parts of creating a Will would be the same for everybody, there are certain additional steps that you want to take as an immigrant.
Here’s what you need to know.
Why do I need a Will as an immigrant?
A Will is an important document for any adult to have in place because it legally outlines your wishes for after your death. You want to have a legal Will in place to ensure that your legacy is executed the way that you want it to be. This includes what assets go to which loved ones, who takes guardianship of any children or pets, and any charitable donations you want made, just to name a few.
If you were to pass away suddenly without a Will, your estate would be distributed based on provincial laws. A loved one will have to apply for authority to administer your estate, and your loved one will need to follow the rules of the province in distributing your assets. Having a Will in place ensures your loved ones — in your new home country or old — are receiving what you want them to.
How do I make a Will as an immigrant?
There are two different “paths” you may take to create a Will, depending on whether or not you had a Will in place before you immigrated to Canada.
If You’ve Never Made a Will
The process of creating a Will for the first time in Canada is the same for everyone, regardless of their immigration status. You can either do it yourself through an easy online Will platform or visit a lawyer to assist you (in most provinces you can also create a Will entirely in your own handwriting, but going that route is not recommended) . Either way, you need to go through your assets and decide what will happen to them. Your assets include any property, cash, investments, jewelry, and more.
If You Have a Will, But It’s Not Canadian
If you created a Will in another country, you will want to consult a lawyer in Canada to see what changes (if any) need to be made. Cross-border assets can get complicated for a Will, so meeting with an attorney ensures everything is still legally binding and will be distributed as you intended.
If you have assets in multiple countries, you’ll want to speak to lawyers. It’s a good idea to reach out to a lawyer in Canada to talk about how to handle your Canadian assets (property, cars, etc.) . You’ll also want to contact lawyers in any other country where you have assets to see if any special planning is required.
It’s also important that you let your loved ones know that you have a Will in place. Having a Will that guides the process of distributing an estate will not do much good if they don’t know it exists or where to find it.
Can immigrants name people who aren’t in Canada in their Will?
Yes! If you are in Canada, you can name people as beneficiaries in your Will even if they are in another country. It is important to note, however, that there may be Canadian and/or foreign tax consequences if you plan on leaving part of your estate to somebody located out of Canada.
Beneficiaries from another country may find themselves taxed by their home country on any inheritance so it’s worth looking into this. Due to the unique nature of tax laws between countries, it’s important to consult a lawyer in your home country to minimize these risks.
Can immigrants name people who aren’t in Canada as their Executor?
This is actually a common question for those immigrating to Canada, especially if they do not have as much family here. The answer is yes — you can name an executor who isn’t a Canadian resident. But, just like assets being left to a loved one outside of Canada, there may be tax implications for the estate if the executor is not a Canadian resident.
It is best to speak to an estate lawyer if you are concerned about the tax implications of either a beneficiary or executor being outside of Canada. They can help walk you through the scenarios and minimize any tax implications.
Final thoughts on Wills for Canadian immigrants
While making or updating a Will may not be at the top of the priority list when immigrating to a new country, it should be on the list somewhere. Because getting your estate in order ultimately ensures that your loved ones are protected.
With Epilogue Wills, you can cross a Will off the to-do list within 20 minutes or less. Our platform makes it easy to have peace of mind knowing everything is in place. And if you need to talk with somebody, feel free to book a call. We would love to see where we can help.