Despite the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis, TCZ Law remains open and dedicated to providing an outstanding service to all clients. While you may have previously preferred to deliver your information and meet with us in-person at our office, we recommend other alternatives, such as scheduling a phone call or video conference to substitute for face-to-face meetings, and emailing us your personal information at your convenience.


What is a joint will in Ontario family law?

In Ontario family law, a joint will refers to a type of will created by two individuals, typically spouses or partners, who wish to leave their assets and make decisions together in the event of their deaths. Unlike separate individual wills, a joint will combines the testamentary wishes of both parties into a single document. However, it is important to note that joint wills are relatively uncommon and may have certain limitations and legal implications.

Key features and considerations of a joint will in Ontario family law include:

Shared Testamentary Wishes

A joint will allows two individuals to express their testamentary wishes jointly. This means that both parties’ intentions regarding the distribution of assets, appointment of executors, and guardianship of minor children are recorded in a single document.

Mutual Agreement and Binding Effect

For a joint will to be valid, both parties must agree to its terms and execute it together. Once created, the joint will becomes legally binding on both parties, preventing either party from altering or revoking it unilaterally.

Simplicity and Efficiency

Joint wills are often favored by couples who have similar or identical testamentary wishes. By consolidating their intentions into a single document, joint wills can simplify the estate planning process and minimize administrative efforts in the future.

Limitations on Changes

As per Ontario’s Succession Law Reform Act, one significant aspect of joint wills is that they restrict the ability of either party to modify the terms of the will after the other party’s death. Since joint wills are designed to reflect the shared wishes of both parties, changes to the will can only be made during the joint lives of the parties and with the consent of both individuals.

Survivor’s Rights

Upon the death of one party, the joint will typically provides for the transfer of assets or real estate to the surviving spouse or partner as per the predetermined terms. The surviving party is bound by the joint will and must distribute the remaining assets according to the agreed-upon provisions.

Legal Implications and Considerations

Joint wills can have legal implications that may affect the surviving party. For example, if the surviving party remarries or enters into a new relationship, their obligations under the joint will may conflict with their new legal obligations to their new spouse or partner. Therefore, careful consideration and legal advice are essential when contemplating the use of a joint will.

Alternatives and Individual Wills

While joint wills can be an option for certain couples, it is important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks. In some cases, individual wills may offer more flexibility and allow each party to address their specific wishes and changing circumstances.

Given the complexities and potential limitations of joint wills, it is strongly advised to seek professional legal advice when considering estate planning options. TCZ Lawyer Eric Zhao can provide guidance, assess your unique circumstances, and help you determine the most suitable approach for your estate planning needs in accordance with Ontario law.