Do you know that between 50% and 66% of Canadians do not have a valid will to direct their executors in carrying out their wishes for dividing their estate upon their death? In previous articles, we have discussed why it is important to have a will. Perhaps some residents of Medicine Hat know it is important to have a will, but do not know what options they have to prepare one.
There are three types of wills allowed under the Wills and Succession Act of Alberta, all of which are considered valid wills.
So which should you choose? You guess that, because I am a lawyer who works in the area of Estate and Life Planning, that I will recommend you see a lawyer, and you are right.
At the same time, I think it is important for people to understand the difference options so they can make the decision that is best for them.
In a lot of ways the options in preparing a will are similar to how you might tackle a home renovation project, like installing a new bathtub. Some of the factors you should consider are cost, speed, quality and reliability.
You may be a true DIY person and want to get right in there to rip out the tub and install the new one. You might get some tips from the home improvement store or on YouTube, but you are doing all the work. Because you are doing all the labour, the labour costs you nothing. If you have the time, it can be done quickly. This would be comparable to a person preparing a holograph will. What makes the holograph will unique is it is written in the makers’ own handwriting and does not need to be signed before any witnesses.
A second option might be to tackle the project, but with a little help. Instead of calling up a plumber, you call your handy friend. Your friend might do the work for beer and pizza, or for a small fee. It may take longer to do the work if your friend is busy. If your friend makes a mistake, you probably have to pay to fix it. This would be comparable to a person who buys a will kit or pays for an online service to assist in the creation of their will. The will is prepared but the person still has to sign it in accordance with the law.
Or you might be all thumbs, like me, and hire a plumber to do this work for you. Hiring the plumber is similar to hiring a lawyer to prepare your will. This option will likely cost the most of the 3 options.
The difference in preparing a holograph will or using the will kit and going with a lawyer is the lawyer provides both the will and legal advice about what provisions should go in the will. Using a lawyer to prepare the will increases the likelihood the will is both legally sufficient and also meets your Estate Planning goals and objectives. In some cases it means there is a lesser likelihood the will would be challenged. The lawyer also carries professional liability insurance which means if they make a mistake (and it does happen sometimes) there is insurance to address the error. If you prepare your own will and you make a mistake, there is greater likelihood there will be more time and money involved in addressing errors or inconsistencies.
The costs of having your estate plan fail or flounder is likely more than the cost of improperly installing a bathtub. This is why I remind my clients the money spent in preparing their estate plan usually equates to money saved on the administration of their estate after they pass away.
Whichever will you choose, make an informed decision on the right type for you.