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If you need a will, turn to a professional.

Making a Will? Call a Professional

November is make-a-will month, which serves as yet another reminder that you really need to get around to actually sitting down and making your will. Many Ontarians are reluctant about making their will. Some think they don’t need a Will because they’re too young, or they’re not ready, and some because they’re uncomfortable thinking about death, which is understandable.

The truth, however, is that not having a will can be even more uncomfortable, especially for your family and loved ones. Having a will in place helps to ensure that your wishes are clear to your loved ones and that your assets are dealt with the way you want them to be. When someone passes away without a will, they are said to die “intestate”. To die “intestate” means the law dictates what is to happen, which may be contrary to what you might expect and could result in a different outcome than what you might want. Even old wills need to be updated, especially if they are more than ten years old. 

Over the past few decades, there has been large-scale commercial efforts to ‘fast track’ the will-making process. In the 1990s it was TV ads featuring an older couple at their kitchen table, talking about the ease of the Canadian legal will kit. Recently it’s a spate of online services that attempt to offer speedy solutions at a low cost without leaving your home.

When it comes to creating a last Will, you get what you pay for. The cheaper alternatives do not offer the tailored estate plan, the practical advice, or the assured feeling of knowing everything is going to be looked after as you expect it. Working with a lawyer to craft your wills is simple, affordable, and ensures that the job gets done right. Here’s why that’s so important. 

Will Kits Aren’t Always Current

Much like other areas of the law, the law around wills and estates is always changing. A court decision might be released that makes old language in wills invalid, or at least ineffectual. This means that lawyers are constantly updating their templates and are assisted by software to make sure that their language meets the latest legal standards.

Will kits though, which are updated annually at most, are not subject to the same oversight. A will kit that you purchase online to do your own will at home may not be in line with the current state of the law – a fact that may only come to light should a legal dispute arise over your will after you’re gone. 

The Importance of Legal Advice

When making a will with a lawyer, the lawyer’s job is to walk you through your various options and potential scenarios. A templated will may work for someone with a very simple state of affairs…but when is life ever simple? If you are looking to set up trusts for any minors, ongoing support for any disabled relatives (known as a Henson Trust), or deal with any financial complexities, a lawyer is the expert in how to handle those situations. 

A lawyer’s job is also to think of the things that are not even on your radar. A lawyer will usually suggest second and even third options for your wishes, should your original wishes not go according to plan. For example, a lawyer can recommend an ‘airplane clause’ – one that addresses what would happen to your estate if all of your beneficiaries pass when you do. 

That legal advice and guidance is crucial, and it’s one that a will kit simply does not offer. If the testator (author of the will) becomes confused on their own, they can make crucial mistakes that could end up invalidating a will. A lawyer’s role is to answer questions, provide guidance, discuss next steps, and ensure that everyone knows their role in the process.

A Lawyer’s Added Perspective

It’s often assumed that a lawyer’s primary role in the will-making process is to ensure that everything is done properly, which is true in large part. For example, some courts have ruled against handwritten portions of wills made with will kits and ruled that only typed portions accurately reflect the testator’s wishes.

Signatures are also crucial. A lawyer will confirm that a will is signed properly, so that there is not a later debate over whether ‘Joe Smith’ is actually ‘Joseph Paul Smith III.’ A lawyer will also ensure that the proper number of witnesses sign a will correctly so that it is not later deemed invalid due to a lack of witnesses.

Most importantly, though, a lawyer is working the whole time to ensure that the testator is competent and healthy enough to give proper instructions. They are taking notes in the background as to their client’s health, well-being, and mental state. A testator must be able to clearly reflect their intentions in the document – if they are not mentally competent to do so then the entire validity of a will can be called into question.

State of mind comes up frequently in estate litigation, particularly if one descendant is arguing that the testator was not mentally capable of giving instructions. A lawyer’s notes around the execution of a will may be crucial in helping to support a will’s validity in court, and without those notes the entire document can be called into question. 

Final Thoughts

It may not be pleasant to turn your mind to your own mortality. Lawyers understand that and are sensitive to those concerns. Yet we also see the other side of what can happen without a proper will in place, where your descendants are torn apart fighting each other in court while each has a different version of what your wishes may have been.

Our job is to help make this process easy. We work with clients throughout the Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo region to make the will-drafting process simple, straightforward, and affordable too. Making your will should be painless. Contact our office today to learn how to get started.