Many Canadian adults do not have a will, or they have a will that is obnoxiously out of date. This includes many parents of preschoolers who wrote their will before they had a child and still haven’t updated it. While this isn’t a good thing, it does make sense. Many Canadians perceive wills and lawyers and notaries to be expensive and time consuming. Organizing your estate, making important decisions about who will be in charge of what, and deciding who will inherit which assets can be very stressful. This leads many Canadians to put off estate planning indefinitely until an accident or illness suddenly makes it obvious how important these documents are. With little time or money to spend during their emergency, they may turn to a Do-It-Yourself Will Kit instead of a professional. But is this a good idea?
They Get the Job Done. In the long term, we’d probably say no. But if your circumstance makes having a professional will done in time to address your family’s emergency impossible, a DIY will may be the only option available to you. While not everyone agrees, the majority of lawyers in Canada do feel that a DIY will is preferable to no will at all, and whether you buy your DIY will from Staples or online, it’s hard to argue with how quickly, efficiently, and affordably you can have a DIY will completed.
And if you only have a very simple estate with a couple bank accounts (which already have beneficiaries), some registered investments (which also have named beneficiaries), and local land tiles that are jointly owned by your spouse, your Do-It-Yourself will may even suffice for the long haul. But if your family and estate are at all complicated, we definitely recommend steering clear of the DIY option if at all possible.
Except When They Don’t. There are some very big problems with DIY wills. First of all, most are either very easy to understand but lacking nuance (so they won’t even tell you about many of the decisions you really should be considering) or they’re holistic but difficult to understand for a layperson. In “legalese”, some words have completely different meanings than they do in normal, everyday language. This means that certain parts of your DIY will may seem fine on the surface but contradict themselves in court. The court would then find part or all of the will invalid. In this case, you may as well not have a will. Beyond that, a Canadian with any sort of complication to their estate, for example having a blended family or owning international property, will really benefit from the sophistication a professional eye brings to the estate plan.
At the end of the day, DIY wills fill an important niche. They are useful for Canadians who have put off estate planning and have found themselves in the middle of a family emergency without any sort of will. However, we’d recommend never allowing yourself to get into that situation to begin with. Planning your estate isn’t just about death. At MacMillan Estate Planning, we think of designing your personalized estate plan as life planning. Schedule your free consultation with MacMillan Estate Planning today and ensure your family is looked after you’re gone.