Danny had questions about wills when he called my law office. My practical answer may help you decide how to make your own will.
Danny: I have to make a will and don’t know how. All my friends of my age say it’s easy. I have gone online and found so many websites. They offer will making services and free forms. Is it true I can make a will by myself? Will it be legal?
Ed: I should clear up the common misconception about making your will by yourself. There are more practical factors to consider when making a will.
The simple answer is that there is no legal requirement for you to make a will with a lawyer, Danny. But most people prefer to invest in a lawyer-prepared will.
There are many reasons why you may never get around to doing it yourself. I am not trying to sell you a will. Let me email you more reasons that you can share with your friends.
Here is the gist of the email I sent Danny.
1. Time – you are busy with your job and family. They take all of your time. You do not have extra time to do the research needed to make your own will. If it was a priority, you would have done it by now. That is the issue. It takes time to do things right.
You never know what an online source produces is guaranteed right for you. Who is qualified to prepare a valid will? Sure, they can ask you a standard checklist of basic questions such as:
- Are you married or single?
- What province do you live in?
- Do you own a house?
But more importantly, can you ask anyone questions?
Here are things that are important to you like:
- How do I make sure my children will have money to go to school?
- Who should be my executor if I have no one I trust?
- How can I save taxes?
- What obligations do I have to my spouse or common law partner?
- Can I do whatever I want with my money?
You can read my blog post to answer this last question, Honey is it Truly only Your Money?
2. Paperwork – most people make mistakes filling out simple forms. Making a will and having it properly signed is important. Mistakes you or your witnesses make can mean your will may not be legal.
If you make a will mistake, who knows about it? Usually nobody, until you are gone, that is. It is then too late for you to fix it. Your beneficiaries may then need to hire lawyers. Your relatives and their lawyers will need to see a judge. It will cost thousands to try and repair any mistakes. Some will mistakes can’t be repaired.
That would leave you without a will. Wasn’t that what you wanted to avoid in the first place?
Most people do not want to die without a will. You do not want to force your relatives to hire lawyers and go to court. Dying intestate or without a will passes all your estate burdens to them. Without an executor in your will no one has the power to pay your bills.
3. Advice – most people do not understand their legal obligations. When you make a will you deal with complex laws that change daily. These include family law, property, estate and tax laws.
You may think your situation is simple. But I find people want and need help when making important decisions.
Deciding who should be your executor or guardian for minor children is a complex decision. Most people need help understanding all their options. Only a lawyer can provide legal advice.
Using an online form to prepare your will does not help you with your specific questions or circumstances.
There other factors you need to consider as well, Danny.
Investing in a professional prepared will provides protection. Here are benefits to consider:
4. Security – knowing a professional has prepared your will. This gives you added comfort. You don’t have to worry about the what-ifs and if you’ve made a mistake.
5. Making an investment – will lawyers are available almost every price range. A lawyer-prepared will is an investment. Like insurance, it saves you money down the road. Spread the cost of a lawyer-prepared will over the years. The protection and comfort you receive costs pennies a day.
6. Comfort and peace of mind – your loved ones and property will be protected. You will need guidance from a professional if you:
- own a business
- share ownership of more than one property
- are in a second marriage or common law relationship
- have assets in more than one province
- have minor children
- your beneficiaries have special needs
- charities count on your financial support
- have a cherished pet to provide for
Make sure you get the right estate planning advice to make a will. Don’t leave it to chance or until you have the time to do it yourself. Get it done right.
Danny, resolve to invest your time in finding the right lawyer to help you. Then invest in a professionally-prepared will.
Edward Olkovich (BA, LLB, TEP, C.S.) is a nationally recognized estate expert. He is a Toronto estate lawyer and Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts Law. Edward has practiced law since 1978 and has written numerous estate books. Visit his blog, mrwills.com, for more free valuable information. (c) 2016