The perils of do-it-yourself wills
Have you ever thought about using an online service to write a will instead of hiring a lawyer to draft one for you? After all, dozens of websites offer to make will-writing fast and easy so maybe you’re asking yourself, how bad can it be?
We knew of a man who decided to save money by using an online service rather than a lawyer. This man had recently married for the second time. He had children from his first marriage and owned a successful business with his new wife. When he completed his online will, he accidentally signed it in the witness box instead of the signature box.
Unbeknownst to him, that innocent mistake invalidated the entire will.
When he died, it was as if he had died without a will. His wife spent five years and thousands of dollars fighting to have her husband’s wishes recognized. In the end, she nearly lost everything.
Online wills may offer convenience at a low price but are not a substitute for legal advice. Here are three more reasons why it’s important to use a lawyer to write your will.
1. A website doesn’t know who you are: Online wills require you to complete specific questions. These questions don’t take into account your precise needs, unique situations or sincere wishes.
2. A website doesn’t tell you if you made a mistake: Doing it yourself also means being your own expert. You can’t judge the quality of your online will, whether you forgot anything or whether you cheated yourself or your loved ones. You simply have to hope that you completed everything correctly and in the most effective way possible. The problem is, you don’t know what you don’t know.
3. A website doesn’t understand ‘complicated’: Anything outside of the norm can be considered complicated. Need to appoint a trustee outside of Canada? Want to name joint executors? Don’t want to affect a beneficiary’s access to disability payments upon receiving an inheritance from you? Online wills do not offer legal advice, leaving you on your own to figure out how to incorporate your complex needs.
Online wills cannot replace the advice of a lawyer. Only a lawyer understands your circumstances, goals, and wishes and helps ensure that the ones you love are properly protected.