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When to create an online will vs. when to use a lawyer

Technology is simplifying the will-making process. Find out if an online will is right for you.

Deciding to create your will is the most important decision you’ll make when it comes to estate planning. A survey commissioned by online estate planning platform Willful found that the most common reason for not having a will is procrastination – most people plan on doing their will, they just keep putting it off until “later,” but often later never comes. That explains why 57% of Canadians don’t have a will at all, and that jumps to 67% of Canadians who don’t have an up-to-date-will (since 10% of people have an out-of-date will after going through a life event like the birth of a child, or getting married/divorced). So, if you’ve decided to finally check off estate planning from your to-do list, give yourself a pat on the back!

The second key estate planning decision to make is whether to create your will online or with a lawyer. We often get asked about how online wills differ from lawyer-made wills, whether online wills work for everyone, and if they’re actually legal. If you’re wondering the same things, read on – we have the answers.

Who Should Use An Online Will Platform Like Willful?

An online will platform is ideal for people with simple estates. If you’re not sure whether your estate is simple or not, we have outlined some helpful criteria:

  • You own property in one country (if you’re using Willful – in Canada)
  • You have assets/investments in one country (again, in Canada)
  • You have a child or children
  • You have a pet and want to assign a guardian and/or leave a part of your estate to that guardian for their care
  • You want to leave specific gifts (for example art or jewelry)
  • You want to leave a cash gift or percentage of your estate to charity
  • You have a spouse or common law partner
  • You don’t have any complex “if this then that” scenarios – you have several beneficiaries you will split the estate amongst, but don’t need to create any unique stipulations
  • You want to create Power of Attorney documents in order to dictate what happens if you become ill or incapacitated (sometimes known as a Living Will)

If the above applies to you, an online will platform like Willful is likely a good fit for you.

Who should visit a lawyer instead of using an online platform?

If you’re still unsure of whether you should use an online will platform, we have also outlined some criteria that can help you to determine if your estate is too complex:

  • You own property in different countries (there can be differences between the rules in each jurisdiction) – this doesn’t mean you absolutely can’t use an online platform, but you should likely check on the local rules first
  • You have a business and would like to create a dual will
  • You have very complex clauses or scenarios that you would like to include in your will
  • You want to set up specific or unique rules around your minor child’s trust (for example Willful allows you to dictate at which age they will receive their inheritance, but if you’d like to create a tiered payout structure, you would need to visit a lawyer)
  • You have a child with a disability and need to set up a Henson trust
  • You want to speak with someone to get legal advice about your specific situation
  • You are separated but not divorced and want to ensure your ex doesn’t receive part of your estate
  • You want to disinherit a child or family member from your will

My Estate is Simple Enough But How Do I Choose?

If you have a simple estate but you’re still on the fence between making an online will and getting a lawyer-made will, consider the amount of time and money you’re able to spend. A Willful survey found that the time and cost of making a will is too high for almost 2 million Canadians. Traditional estate planning with a lawyer often requires taking time off work to make visits to a lawyer and can cost thousands of dollars. You also have to repeat this process every time you need to update your will – for example you when you have a child, purchase a home, get married (or divorced) or have some other significant life change. If you’re willing to spend the time and money or wish to get specific legal advice, you may choose to do your will with an estate lawyer.

Otherwise, an online will platform offers a more affordable solution (Willful offers three packages, starting at $99 for an individual will, going up to $249 for a mirrored will for couples). An online will platform also saves you time and offers flexibility – you can do it from work, home, the beach – whenever and wherever it’s convenient for you. With Willful, it takes less than 20 minutes to complete and you can update it at any time for no added cost. Willful work with estate lawyers across Canada to build their legal content, and the platform guides you through a series of questions about your unique life situation to create a completely customized document. Think of it like TurboTax for estate planning.

But Are Online Wills Legal?

Both online wills and wills made by a lawyer are legal if:

  • You meet the age of majority in your province
  • You created it in sound mind
  • You signed it with a wet signature (that means if you’re doing an online will you have to print it and sign it on paper with ink)
  • It is signed by two witnesses, both of whom do not benefit from your estate and are present when the document is signed

As long as you meet the conditions above, your will is legally-binding. It’s important to note that any will, regardless if it’s made online or by a leading estate lawyer – can be contested in court. Creating a will that is aligned to your personal circumstances is the best way to ensure it holds up in court. Whether you decide to do that using an online will platform like Willful or a lawyer, we commend you for tackling such an important task and making sure there’s a plan in place for your loved ones.

You can read more about estate planning in Willful’s Learn Centre, which provides background info on the key components of an estate plan, including beneficiaries, guardians, executors, and more.

We have a special offer for MeVest clients – click here & use code MEVEST10 to get 10% off your estate plan on Willful.