Wills and Estates

What to Put in a Will: Considerations for Indigenous Communities


Making a will is an important act. It must express all your wishes and be clearly written so your loved ones will understand it. If you are an Indigenous person living in a community (“reserve”), you must follow special rules under the Indian Act.


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.

Your Heirs (the people who inherit from you) 

Your will says who will inherit your property and how you want it distributed, for example, who gets your car, money, jewellery and furniture.  

You can usually leave your property to anyone you choose. But if you’re an Indigenous person living in a community, there might be some exceptions: 

To make things easier for your loved ones, make a list of all your property and where it’s located.  

Someone to Care for Your Children 

You can name a guardian for your children who are under 18. In law, the guardian is called a tutor.  The tutor will take care of the children if the other parent dies before you or at the same time. You can choose a person you trust to take care of your children.  

Someone to Manage Your Property 

You can choose who will settle your affairs after you die, such as paying your debts with the money you left, closing your accounts and notifying your heirs. This person is called your “executor.”  

You can make your executor’s job easier by doing these things:  

  • Write down where your property is located (such as your car, jewellery and bank accounts). 
  • Make a list of your debts, if any.  
  • Write down the full names and addresses of the people you want to leave your property to.  

Funeral Wishes  

You can say what kind of funeral you want and whether you want to be buried or cremated.   

You can also plan your funeral in advance with a funeral home. 

Your will is usually opened only after your funeral. So, talk to your loved ones about it ahead of time so they’ll know what your wishes are.