Creating a Will can seem complicated. And expensive. But it doesn’t have to. There are many options available to help you through the process. Let’s look at some of these options and the mistakes to avoid when making your Will.
What You Need to Make a Will Valid
For a formal Will to be valid, it needs to have the following:
- Be in writing
- State that it is your Will
- Have your signature
- Signed in the presence of 2 witnesses that are not beneficiaries
But there is also a holographic Will that is by your hand and only signed by you.
Creating a Will Options in Canada
The first thing most people think of when considering their Will is that they have to meet with a lawyer. And that the process is time-consuming and costly.
Fortunately, there are many options in Canada for getting your Will written that are not costly or overly time-consuming. Some you can even do at home in your pajamas.
Related Post – Why You Need a Will, and What Happens If You Don’t Have One
Full disclosure – when we had our Wills created, we did go through a lawyer. The first time we wrote our Wills, we didn’t know there were other options. And when we had them updated after the birth of our little one, our estate had become much more complicated.
But if I could go back in a time machine, I don’t think I would have gone through a lawyer when we had our first Will created. It would have saved us a lot of money using some of the other options on this list.
A holographic Will is different from a formal Will in that it is prepared in your handwriting and signed solely by you. It is by far the simplest and most affordable way to write your Will.
But it is also the easiest way to forget to include essential clauses or to account for every possible situation. Holographic Wills are the easiest to have issues with later on.
If you are not familiar with the process of writing a Will, a holographic Will may not be in your best interest. But if you don’t have a Will, at least a holographic Will is better than nothing.
|– Can be prepared in own handwriting|
– No need for witnesses
– No cost
|– May not be comprehensive enough|
– Easy to forget to include essential clauses
– May not account for every possible situation, therefore, becoming obsolete
DIY Will Kit
DIY Will kits, although very affordable, should also be avoided. They are often written with a one size fits all approach that doesn’t apply to everyone.
These kits also often have a disclaimer that they are not responsible for errors or omissions. That means that that responsibility lies with you. How are you to be an expert on writing a Will? Especially if you have never done it before?
|– Can be prepared on your own|
– Can be prepared on your own time
|– Easy to not prioritize completing your Will|
– One size fits all doesn’t apply to everyone
– Very easy to make mistakes
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Online Will Platforms
There has been an increase in online Will platforms in the past decade. These platforms are affordable and make creating a Will very convenient.
Let’s talk about 3 of the most popular Canadian services. And don’t worry – all of them help you create a valid and legal Will.
Epilogue Wills is the only online Will platform that was founded and is run by former estate lawyers with over a decade of combined experience.
With Epilogue, you can make a legally-binding will in as little as 20 minutes. The platform walks you through the process without any complicated legal jargon.
Epilogue offers different pricing options depending on your needs. All you have to do is create an account on their online platform, and once you make your purchase, your Will comes with unlimited lifetime updates.
Not only can you create a Will with Epilogue, but you can also include Powers of Attorney for Personal Care and Property.
The one downside of Epilogue is that they are not currently available in every province and territory yet. But they do have plans to expand to everywhere in Canada. Epilogue is presently available to residents of Alberta, Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, with plans on expanding to all of Atlantic Canada by the end of 2021.
Epilogue does not provide legal or any other professional advice, such as accounting or tax advice.
|– No complicated legal jargon|
– Create your Will in as little as 20 minutes from the comfort of your home
– Founded by experienced estate lawyers
|– Not available in all provinces and territories|
– May not be appropriate for complex estates
– Will cannot be digitally signed
Like Epilogue, Willful is an online platform that will help you create a Will in as little as 20 minutes. Estate lawyers did not found Willful, but they have a team of lawyers at their disposal.
Willful has a variety of plans that also offer Wills and Powers of Attorney. And with Willful, you get unlimited updates included with every plan.
Unfortunately, there is no way to sign your Will digitally, so you will have to print it off (or have it printed for you) to be signed in person and witnessed by two witnesses (who are not beneficiaries).
Willful is not available in every province and territory but also has plans to expand to all Canadians. If you are a resident of Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, or British Columbia, then Willful may be the online Will platform for you.
|– Family plans available|
– Create your Will in as little as 20 minutes from the comfort of your own home
– More affordable than working directly with a lawyer
|– Not available in all provinces and territories|
– Will cannot be signed digitally
– May not be appropriate for complex estates
Legalwills.ca is the oldest Canadian online Will platform and has been around for over 20 years. They are available in every province and territory – something that sets them apart from their competition.
Like other online Will platforms, Legalwills.ca helps you create a will in as little as 20 minutes from the comfort of your own home.
They have a-la-carte pricing, so you only pay for what you need. But be careful because sometimes the products can add up as you add multiple products together.
Legalwills.ca includes unlimited updates and online storage for the first year. After that, you have the option to purchase more time (up to a lifetime limit) to store your documents and update them through their platform. But they do offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, and you can collect Airmiles with every purchase.
|– Available in all provinces and territories|
– Ability to earn Airmiles
– 30-day money-back guarantee
|– Have to pay for updates and storage beyond one year|
– A-la-carte pricing can add up
– Webpage not as user friendly as other options
Having your Will created by a lawyer is probably one of the most commonly thought ways to write a Will. But it can also be a barrier to doing so.
Working with a lawyer will be more time consuming than the other options listed above. And because it takes more time, it is going to cost you more money.
But some estate situations may require working with a lawyer. If you have a complicated estate or family situation, I would recommend working with a lawyer to make sure your will is appropriate.
The price you will pay a lawyer to draft your will and power of attorney documents can vary greatly. So shop around and ask for referrals in your local area.
|– Peace of mind knowing that your Will is created by a professional and will account for every possible situation|
– Ability to have your personal questions answered
– Appropriate for complex estates
|– The most expensive way to make your Will|
– Can be very time consuming
– May be overkill if you have a simple estate
Terminology to Know
There is some terminology associated with Wills that can be confusing. And it doesn’t help that the terminology changes across the provinces and territories. But, as always, I’m here to help. Here are some standard terms you may come across when creating a Will.
Last Will and Testament
A last Will and testament, more commonly known as a Will, is a legal document that states how you want your estate distributed upon your death. It will often include the appointment of an executor (in some provinces, called a personal representative), and guardian(s) if you have minor children.
Your estate is everything you own. All of your assets (investments, properties, etc.) and all your liabilities (mortgages, loans, etc.)
Enduring Power of Attorney
An Enduring Power of Attorney is a legal document that lets you appoint someone to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able to make these decisions for yourself.
The Donor of the Enduring Power of Attorney is you, and the Attorney is the person you appoint to make decisions for you.
Living Will/Personal Directive
A Personal Directive is a legal document that lets you appoint someone to make decisions for you if you are no longer able to make personal decisions for yourself.
Your agent can make decisions related to where you will live and what medical treatment you may receive. But not legal or financial decisions (those belong to your enduring power of attorney).
A Personal Directive is sometimes referred to as a Living Will, but that term is not used in every province and can have a different meaning depending on where you live.
The Maker of the Personal Directive is you, and the Agent is who you appoint to make decisions for you.
Your executor/executrix is your personal representative. They manage your estate upon your death. This management may include locating all your assets, paying any debts and funeral costs, and distributing your estate to beneficiaries according to your wishes. In some cases, it may also include planning your funeral.
You can appoint anyone to be your executor/executrix; a family member, friend, or professional. Just make sure you talk to the person first before including them in your Will as an executor/executrix.
The guardian or guardians in your Will is who you appoint to take care of your minor children should something happen to you. If no guardians are listed, the courts may decide guardianship upon your death.
A beneficiary is who you choose to pass on your estate to. You can choose to have a sole beneficiary or multiple, depending on your wishes.
The testator is not a word you will commonly hear, but it may come up. The testator is the person who is creating the Will, or who the Will is for. You are the testator for your Will.
Your bequests are the specific items (or sum of money) that are to be distributed to your beneficiaries.
7 Mistakes to Avoid When Creating a Will
One of the reasons we decided to go with a lawyer when we first created our Wills was that we didn’t want to make a mistake. Although the online Will platforms help walk you through the process, here are a few mistakes you want to make sure you are aware of so that you can avoid them.
Having an Outdated Will
Life circumstances change.
You want to make sure that your Will also changes and is up to date. It’s a good idea to review your Will after any significant life event (birth, marriage, divorce, etc.) and every few years. The review process is easy.
Not Including a Backup Plan in Your Will
What happens if you live longer than your sole beneficiary? Your Will should account for numerous scenarios and have a solution no matter what the circumstances of your death are.
Including Funeral Wishes
Your Will is not the place to include your funeral wishes. These wishes may change over time, and it can be costly and time-consuming to update your Will with these changes.
A better idea is to have your funeral wishes in a separate document you keep with your Will.
Including a List of Assets/Accounts
If you’re anything like me, your assets and accounts change frequently. Or at least more regularly than your Will.
Because your Will is a legal document, you want to keep it as clean and current as possible.
A better practice is to include a list of your assets and accounts as a separate document to your Will. You can update this document at any time. Just make sure to keep a current copy with your Will, or ensure that your executor/executrix knows where or how to access the document.
We have worked with our parents to create a sort of legacy binder. In this binder is all of their account and asset information. It is easy for them to keep this binder updated, and their kids all know where it is. Should something happen to our parents, this legacy binder will help us deal with their affairs.
We have yet to create our own statement of accounts, but it is something on our list to do. We have a template and have started working through it.
Creating Your Will Without Any Guidance
A Will is not something that you want to get wrong. If done right, it can provide peace of mind to your loved ones. Done incorrectly, it can create more stress (and potentially legal issues) for your family and friends upon your passing.
Although a holographic Will is free, plan to spend some money to create your Will with some guidance. This doesn’t mean you have to make an appointment with a lawyer. For simple estates, the online Will platforms listed above are great options.
Not Keeping Your Original Will Safe
It’s great to have an up to date Will. But if nobody can find the original or if it’s destroyed in a fire or flood, then it is of no use.
Your executor/executrix will need an original copy of your Will to act as your personal representative.
Make a plan to keep your Will in a safe and secure place (a fire and flood-proof locked safe can be a good option). And let your executor/executrix know where they can find your Will should they need it.
Not Discussing Your Wishes Before Including Your Executor/Executrix and Guardians in Your Will
Having conversations about death can be uncomfortable, but they are discussions that are required when you’re creating a Will.
I know of someone who included guardians in their Will without ever discussing it with the guardians. Imagine if something would have happened?
These can be life-changing decisions and ones you want to make sure you discuss with all parties involved.
Being complicated and expensive are excuses that people use to avoid creating a Will. As you can see, those excuses aren’t valid with all of the options available to Canadians.
If you do not have a Will, schedule some time to look through the options listed above. In a few hours, you could do your research and even create your will from the comfort of your home.
If you have any other questions about creating a Will, please leave them below. I’m determined to help you through the process and make this year the year you finally write your Will.