Simple wills can be obtained from a variety of sources: on-line services; drugstore kits, notaries public and yes, from lawyers too. I have even met with families whose deceased loved ones drafted their own wills by hand, from scratch, with no formal guidance whatsoever.
Some people choose on-line and drugstore kits out of an overt sense of privacy, preferring not to discuss such personal matters with anyone. Some choose a notary under the mistaken belief that they offer the same will drafting services that lawyers do. More often than not, though, people choose these options believing they are significantly less expensive than the services of a qualified estate planning lawyer.
This is a misconception! Ironically, it can be an incredibly costly one. For a discussion of common failings found in DIY wills, see DIY Risks.
Most lawyers will agree that simple wills can be beneficial to many families. But, how do you determine that your needs are in fact “simple”? Ask yourself:
- Have you been married more than once?
- Do you have minor children or children with special needs?
- Do you or your spouse have children from prior relationships?
- Could any of your children’s marriages be headed for separation or divorce?
- Have you ever loaned money to, or borrowed money from, one of your children?
- Do you have a partner in your business?
- Do you have assets located outside British Columbia (timeshare, business, land)?
This is neither an exhaustive nor a determinative list, but if you answered “yes” to any of the above, you likely require more than a simple will.
That brings us back to the question of cost. If a simple will does work for you, market conditions often dictate little or no variation between the cost of a lawyer and a notary, allowing you to obtain legal advice from a qualified estate planner for the same price as a notary’s computer generated form will.
The trouble with snapping up a simple will without adequately reviewing your needs from a legal perspective is this: IF YOU CHOOSE THE WRONG PRODUCT FOR YOUR NEEDS, NO ONE WILL KNOW UNTIL AFTER YOU ARE GONE. And therein lies the real cost; the added expense and delay of administering an inadequate estate plan will be borne by your loved ones, who may then require significant legal support before distribution of your estate is possible.