Wills and Estates

How to Make a Will: Considerations for Indigenous Communities


You can make a will on your own. If you are an Indigenous person and live in a community (“reserve”), you must follow some simple rules to make sure your will is valid. 


The rules explained in this article apply to wills and estates of Indigenous people who

  • are registered under the Indian Act,
  • live in an Indigenous community (“reserve”) and
  • are not Inuit, Naskapi, Cree or Métis.

Indigenous people who don’t live in an Indigenous community should refer to the Civil Code of Québec instead of the Indian Act. You can read our articles in our Wills and Estates section to learn more.

Should you see a lawyer or notary? 

You can make a will yourself for free without a lawyer or notary.  

But if you can, it’s a good idea to see a notary or lawyer if your situation is complicated, for example, you own a business or property. 

Lawyers and notaries are legal professionals. They make sure your will expresses your wishes and follows the legal rules. 

If you meet with a lawyer or notary, it’s important to say you’re a member of a First Nation and that you live in a community so that the right rules will be followed. 

How to make a will  

To make a valid will without the help of a notary or lawyer, follow these steps: 

Write it by hand or on a computer. You can do this yourself or ask someone else to do it for you. Your can use your own language, but an English or French translation will be needed when you die.  

Sign the will. It’s a good idea to sign your will in front of two people you trust (witnesses) and have them sign it as well. Write the date next to each signature.  

Be specific. Your will must clearly say who you want to leave your property to. Find out about the special rules that apply to land. 

Important! You must write and sign your will freely. You must not feel pressured. You must have the mental capacity to make a will. This means you understand what the document is and what it says. 

Your will might not be valid if it doesn’t meet these conditions. If your will isn’t valid, your property will be distributed as if you didn’t have a will

Keep your will in a safe place. Tell a person you trust or the person who will settle your affairs after your death where you keep your will. 

How to change a will 

There are two ways to change a will: 

  • By making a new one and throwing out the old one. 
  • By writing changes directly on your will and putting your initials and the date beside each change. You can also add a page and sign it. 

Try to make the changes in front of a person you trust (witness). You can also see a notary or lawyer to change your will. 

Here are some examples of when to make changes to your will: 

  • You want to leave your property to a different person. 
  • You’ve had a child and want to leave something to the child. 
  • You recently got married, divorced or have been living with a common-law partner for over a year. Common law means making a life together without being married or in a civil union.  
  • You got new property. 
  • One of your heirs has died.