8 Tips for making your will if you have a relative with a disability

Family with child in wheelchair and two sisters walking among autumn leaves

Making a Will is an important part of future planning, however it can be challenging and is very easy to put off. If you have a child or relative with a disability, making sure your will is up-to-date is even more crucial. Here are some tips to get your started:

  1. Complete the Will Planning Worksheet from Safe and Secure: Six Steps to Creating a Good Life for People with Disabilities
    This will give you an idea of your assets and help you make decisions.
  2. Decide how you want your estate distributed.
    For example: all to spouse and when spouse dies, split among children in equal shares. Appoint an executor and alternate executor.
  3. Decide if you want to set up a discretionary trust for your family member with a disability.
    Ensure there is no conflict of interest and decide who will be:
    a) the trustee of the discretionary trust
    b) the beneficiary of the trust when your relative dies
    A discretionary trust is a way to shelter money so that it does not affect one’s disability assistance. Otherwise any money received over a certain limit (each province has its own limit) will not be considered an asset in regards to determining eligibility for receiving disability assistance. See this blog post for more information.
  4. Be aware that the following pass outside the Will:
    – life insurance with a designated beneficiary
    – RRSPs and RRIFs with a designated beneficiary
    – assets held in joint tenancy
  5. If you have children under 19 years of age, decide whom you will appoint as their guardian.

  6. Take all this information to a lawyer who has experience in wills and estates for families and individuals with disabilities.
    Ask the lawyer to explain the tax and legal implications of your decisions. Also ask the lawyer about registering the Will with the Vital Statistics Agency, once it has been drawn up. Discuss your draft Will with your trustees.

More Will planning resources:

  • Wills, Trusts, and Estate Planning Webinar This online workshop is facilitated by a lawyer who specializes in disability law and designed specifically for families with a loved-one with a disability.
  • BC Lawyers List – A list of lawyers who have experience with disability law in British Columbia.
  • Disability Planning Helpline –  toll-free at 1-844-311-PLAN (7526) – Call the helpline anytime from anywhere in Canada and one of our family experts will answer your questions about the Disability Tax Credit, the Registered Disability Savings Plan, trusts & estate planning, advocacy approaches, government benefit programs, social network building and more.