Many Canadians do not have a will; in fact, more than 50% of Canadians above 55 years of age do not have a will and 95% of people under the age of 40 do not see reasons to make one.
Peradventure, you are among these groups of people, you may be subjecting your properties, possessions and money, otherwise known as estates to probate when you are no more.
Besides, do you know what that means? Extra cost and delay in processing probate for an intestate.
Again, your estate will be shared according to the state’s intestate succession laws, and not as you would have wished it to be.
So you see, if you are reluctant to make a will, know that there are many other good reasons and benefits why you should have one.
For some, getting a professional lawyer to help them document their will and carry out the necessary processes involved is the best option.
For others, they may want to follow a less rigorous and more money-saving method. Thus, in this article, we will be focusing on these other options people may opt for to make their will.
Hence, as a Canadian, if you have finally decided to make a will, there is a viable option for you outside contracting the full services of a lawyer and that is by using a Will Kit.
DIY will kit
Online will kit
The question then is, are they worth it?
1. DIY Will Kits
DIY will kit or personal will kit is made available in stationery stores. You can buy it from Amazon, post offices, your state public trustee offices and insurance companies.
It is a blank form that may come with other required forms and a step-by-step guide on how to prepare your will. Also, know that these forms may be downloadable in form of templates.
Not many Canadians may be aware of this DIY will kit, but it has roughly been around for more than 15 years now, with yearly updates to meet the requirements of the estate planning law.
Pros Of DIY Will Kits
- They are cheap
The low cost of DIY will kit is the main reason many people opt for it. You can find one as low as 15 $ as compared to paying a lawyer $600 or even more.
- Simple to use
Anyone can make a will using the DIY kit especially if you intend to leave everything for your wife and children and probably have no financial complications.
- It is legal
This is not a sure bet anyway. However, to make it legally binding, there is a need to have it signed properly by you and two other disinterested witnesses (adults).
Aside from any of the above-listed points, a DIY will doesn’t offer much. Here are some of its downsides;
Cons Of DIY Will
- It only covers the basics
The simplicity of a DIY will kit is one reason it does not cover legal oversights in case of complicated situations.
Since there are no legal reviews or instructions, the writer may fail to include important information or sign improperly, and these kinds of mistakes may make the will invalid.
- Not easily updated
DIY will kits are simply papers with some forms of writing on them. This makes it very hard for updates if there should be any wishes you may want to add or remove to reflect your current status such as a change in a relationship.
The only option you have in this case to keep your will up to date is to destroy the old one and write another. That implies you have to do this every time you need to make changes.
- Easily challenged in court
It is easier to challenge DIY wills in court as it is simple and may not fulfil certain legal requirements; making it legally binding does not rule this out.
Again, some family members who your will did not favour may not accept it. They may even explain it differently from what you wished or intended.
- Not safe
A DIY will is simply a physical paper with no backup whatsoever. There is a chance it could be misplaced, stolen and lost with limited chances of recovery.
Also, the beneficiaries and the executor may not even be aware that a will exists in the first place, rendering it invalid.
DIY will kit seems like a good option for those who have a simple and straightforward will, otherwise, it will make your estate planning vulnerable and invalid if you have a complex situation that needs a professional approach.
2. Online Will Kits
Except in Quebec, online will kits are legal throughout other provinces in Canada. You only have to find out which company(s) operates within your province.
Some of the services companies are Willful, LegalWills, Epilogue Wills and CanadaWills; online will fall in between store-bought wills (DIY will kits) and full legal services from a lawyer.
It is quick, inexpensive and easy to create but more importantly, it eliminates most of the loopholes of DIY will kit as it provides more in-depth services that yield precise results.
Pros Of Online Will
Online wills are not as cheap as DIY wills and it is not as expensive as meeting a lawyer outright.
That means you can get some form of supports, reviews and guides directly from a professional and constant updates are carried out to reflect the current estate law.
You pay a little token for the services of lawyers they employ to help you make better decisions.
- Safe and accessible
Online wills are safer than DIY wills as they are specifically designed to feature advanced tools like security and storage.
Thus, with that, you are bound to have better sleep and worry less about losing or misplacing your will even when you must have notified the executor and beneficiaries.
More so, it is easily accessible anytime and that makes updating it very easy.
- Easy to update
A will drafted by an attorney will be tailored specifically to your situation but the update is limited only to the extent you inform him/her.
Updates are unlimited and very easily with an online will. It eliminates the needs of destroying and rewriting a will every time you make changes to fit your current status as with DIY will.
Whether it is about getting married, having children, changing your beneficiaries or wanting to add some assets, the built-in features made it easy for these changes.
- Legal support and guidance
Most online will companies collaborate with lawyers to provide the best basic support and guidance they can give to their clients to avoid mistakes.
You cannot compare it with the real services of a lawyer if you need legal advice for complex estates but it is far better than what you can get from a DIY will kit.
Cons Of Online Will
- Availability issues
As aforementioned, most online will services are unavailable in Quebec, and you cannot even get the available ones in all the provinces.
Therefore, that restricts you to only the services of the will companies available in your province operating with your provincial estate law.
- Not suitable for all cases
A will can be as simple as leaving every estate to your wife and/or children and it can be as sophisticated as a testamentary trust or joint will.
Therefore, if this is your case, an online will kit will absolutely do nothing much as you need advanced guidance and professional help to handle your legal requirements.
It is not uncommon to see online will kits with a disclaimer. That shows they do not want to be held accountable for what you do with their forms like in the case of misuse or errors.
However, that does not mean it is illegal or that it cannot help to protect your assets. There are online will kits available that can offer you the best of services whether it includes a disclaimer or not.
What is important is that you should make a thorough review before choosing any one; at least to be sure they can give you some form of protection as well as consider your basic and unique needs.
Many Canadians who think they need a will that is less expensive, safe and easy to update with basic advice and services of a lawyer, should consider online will kits worthy.
Not everyone has a legal complex situation that requires contracting a traditional lawyer, thus, online will kits are enough to establish the final wishes of many people.
Online or DIY will kits are better options than nothing at all. However, regardless of the cons of will kits, there is a great need for professional legal advice and services in most cases.
It may come with some costs, but it makes these viable means even more worthy.
Thanks for reading, please let me know your thoughts and comments below.
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Sagar Sridhar is a personal finance blogger from Canada. His genuine passion for personal finance coupled with his unique style of writing is what stands out. Professionally, he is a computer engineer, agile certified and has a master’s degree in Project Management. His writing has been featured or quoted in the leading Canadian publications such as Credit Canada and many other personal finance publications. While he is juggling between his day job and blogging, he is the main author on this blog and has miles to go before making the final pit stop.