Beware the Will-Kit: The Costly Consequences of a $9.99 Will
Why would you go to a lawyer to draft your Will, when you can create a “Do-It-Yourself” document at home for less than ten dollars? The simple answer is that the modest out-of-pocket expense now could save you and your Estate thousands of dollars in the long run. Beyond the financial consideration, there is invaluable peace-of-mind knowing that both you and your family will be protected by proper lawyer-drawn Estate planning documents, specifically tailored to your unique situation.
Intestacy is the term used to describe the situation where a person has died without a valid Will. This means that even if you think you may have followed the directions on a “DIY” Will Kit, if it wasn’t executed properly, it won’t be valid. There are very specific legislative requirements as to the proper execution of a Will, and failure to comply with any one of them could mean an invalid Will.
Furthermore, these standard forms don’t take into consideration each person’s specific circumstances, which could cause problems down the road. There are many disadvantages to improper Estate planning, but there are three consistent issues you should consider when deciding whether or not to see a lawyer to draft your Estate planning documents.
First, without a valid Will, the division and distribution of a person’s Estate is dictated by statute. This can be especially devastating if the person had a common-law spouse. If they were not legally married, under the current legislation, the common-law spouse does not receive any portion of the Estate. This can result in very difficult situations. Picture this: you are separated from your first spouse, and living with a new common-law spouse. Even if you have been separated for a decade, that legal spouse could receive a substantial portion of your life’s savings, while your current common-law partner receives nothing.
Secondly, if you do not consult with a lawyer in drafting your Will, you could end up costing your Estate unnecessary taxes upon your death. In Ontario, Estate Administration Taxes are payable by an Estate, often referred to as “probate taxes”. Probate tax planning is specific to each individual, but there are many “Will substitutes” that provide effective probate tax avoidance. These simple probate tax planning strategies can be incorporated by a lawyer into your Will and could end up saving your Estate, and your beneficiaries, thousands of dollars.
Lastly, if you and your spouse both die when your children are minors, your Estate planning might not include trusts for minor beneficiaries. Without trust planning, your Estate could be paid into court to await their 18th birthday. This makes accessing any funds for their needs in the intervening period (whether it be months or years) much more complicated.
These are just three of many potential consequences that could arise from having an improperly constructed or executed Will. While a $9.99 Will may seem to be the most economical option, if not drafted and executed properly, it could end up costing you and your family much more.
From September through June (except for weekends with statutory holidays), Weilers offers a Walk-In Wills Clinic every Saturday morning from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. If you have any questions or concerns about reviewing your existing Will and Powers of Attorney, or if you wish to set up a Will and Powers of Attorney, please feel free to drop by our office on Saturday morning. Appointments are recommended but not necessary, however, in order to make sure you see a lawyer at the most convenient time, we are pleased to offer appointments by advance booking outside of regular office hours.