Why Use Lawyers to Prepare Wills
Are you still struggling to make your will without using a lawyer?
Think you can do it yourself using an online service.
No lawyer is involved online to provide advice. There are only dangers, not advantages, of not using lawyers to make your will. Let me describe them to protect you from dangers.
I am an Ontario Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts Law. This means that I have a bias. I believe it is dangerous not to use a lawyer.
It’s Your Job to Find Lawyers
Your job is to find the right lawyer for you. This is as hard as finding contractors for your kitchen renovation. It takes time to investigate your options and to identify your needs. Yes, more time than filling out a blank online will.
You would not likely design the kitchen by yourself. Nor would you want your plumber to do all the work. Designing kitchens is a specialized field not for amateurs. The same goes for protecting your family’s wealth.
Dangers With Online Wills
There are no positives for online will services. At least none that I can recommend. Most online forms include disclaimers. They are not responsible for what you do with their forms. You may be only fooling yourself. You may think you have protected your family. But, how will you know?
How would you know if your online will has errors? Who does your family complain to if there are problems? Was the will properly signed and witnessed to be legal?
Most online forms will not consider your unique needs. Even if you paid for legal advice, it would not help to prepare online wills.
Most people do not understand the family, estate, trust, tax, and real estate laws involved to prepare wills. You need to do your homework. Find an estate lawyer who can meet your needs and budget.
When Must Lawyers Prepare Your Will?
I can never recommend online will services. However, online services cannot handle situations like if:
- You’re about to be married.
- You have memory issues.
- You are separated from your spouse.
- You have a common law spouse.
- You’ve been recently hospitalized.
- Your estate may have a cottage, rental property or business.
- You need to consider dual wills in Ontario to save probate tax.
- You own or will inherit assets outside of Canada.
- You need advice to choose your executor.
- You have minor children or dependents with special needs.
This is not the ultimate list but it’s a good start.
Some people will ignore risks in using online will forms. They want convenience and set prices. These services cannot give you any tax advice. And any information they supply is no substitute for legal advice.
Most people already have too much information. What they need is legal advice for their particular circumstances.
Your Martial Status Sets the Table
Consider whether you’re:
- divorced, or
- living common law
All of these variables affect how you handle your money. You must meet your legal obligations towards your partner, save taxes and identify your options.
Most people may have a clear idea of what they want in their wills. Something simple that does not cost too much. A one page will would please many people.
But consider your kitchen renovation. You have options about appliances, materials, colours, styles, costs and delivery dates. Similarly you may want to discuss your estate planning options with lawyers.
Need Help Making Your Decisions
Even choosing an executor sounds like a simple decision. Getting a second opinion may be what you really need. You need to investigate what you do not know. Independent advice can review your decisions. Your financial planner cannot advise you about your will.
Will Questions You Cannot Answer
When you have a DIY will you cannot:
- judge the quality of your do it yourself will
- know what you left out or forgot
- tell if you cheated yourself or your loved ones
- anticipate contingencies like your executors dying before you
In the long run, the people you leave behind will inherit your DIY problems. They must deal with additional costs, delays and disappointment.
I will be preparing a new Mr.Wills Estate Planning Guide. You will find it on my website this summer.
P.S. This information is not legal advice.
Consult a Lawyer
About Edward Olkovich
Executors facing estate challenges call Ed Olkovich, who is a Toronto Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts Law. Ed is also an author and edits Carswell’s legal guide Compensation and Duties of Estate Trustees, Guardians and Attorneys. He has resolved estate disputes and probate problems since 1978. © 2017Posted In: Estates, Wills On: July 4th, 2017