Occasionally, we see wills that have been created with Do-It-Yourself Will Kits found online or at various retail stores. While these “DIY wills” may seem like a good idea to quickly and cheaply draft a will, they often create more problems than they solve.
Firstly, DIY wills can result in unintended consequences. When lawyers draft wills, we pay close attention to the language used, as that language has specific legal consequences. As a result, it is easy when using a DIY kit to use language that is incorrect or contradictory to your intentions. This can result in unintended consequences, such as invalidating a gift to a beneficiary, improperly distributing assets, or worse, can even invalidate the will.
Furthermore, the law governing wills and estates varies from province to province. The laws also recently changed, with the introduction of a new statute governing wills and estates in 2014. Although you may think that the will kit you are using will create a valid will in British Columbia, it may be outdated, or be from a different jurisdiction.
In addition, improperly executing or signing documents may render them invalid, or may have unintended consequences. For example, using incorrect witnesses such as family, friends, or spouses, can inadvertently invalidate a gift to a beneficiary or an executor appointment. Many DIY wills also do not provide enough information for witnesses, making it necessary for the lawyer assisting with administration to track them down in order to prove the validity of the will. All of this leads to a more extensive and expensive application for probate.
Additionally, DIY wills may overlook important elements. Lawyers are trained to think about situations that a lay-person may not, to ensure that every scenario is covered. A lawyer will ask you the necessary questions to ensure that you have a plan in place for future and unexpected situations, such as planning for alternate executors, guardians (if necessary), and beneficiaries.
For example, our wills give broad powers to executors to deal with your assets, which makes their job as executor much easier. Most DIY wills do not give executors these broad powers, meaning executors are unable to make important decisions. For example, if a you have a rental income property and make a DIY will, it is likely that your executor will not have the ability to continue collecting rent, doing repairs and maintenance, or signing a new lease with new tenants while waiting to wrap up the estate.
Yet another issue is that without the assistance of a lawyer, people do not understand the rules for updating a will. With the exception of creating a codicil – which is another carefully drafted document that acts as a supplement to the will – wills cannot simply be updated when you choose, and doing so will invalidate the will.
Another important consideration is that if drafted improperly, these DIY wills can create many problems after your death for your loved ones. Confusion and uncertainty about your wishes can result in unnecessary stress on your beneficiaries and executor while they try to determine what your intentions were. Worse, it can lead to fighting amongst your beneficiaries as to who is entitled to what, which can lead to litigation. This will be far more expensive than the cost of having a will properly drafted by a lawyer in the first place.
Lastly, while using a lawyer may result in more initial cost, it also results in many benefits. When you have a will drafted by a lawyer, we do not just draft your will. We spend the time necessary to understand your situation and goals, and create an estate plan that fits your specific needs. Our expertise in the area can result in substantial savings for your estate once you pass away by coming up with a plan that saves your estate probate fees and taxes.
Ultimately, the goal for creating a will is to put a plan in place that ensures your assets will be distributed according to your wishes and to ensure that your loved ones are taken care of. Having your will drafted by a lawyer gives you peace of mind and ensures that your wishes will be carried out.
Please let us know if you have any questions regarding the above or your estate planning needs. We would be happy to discuss how we can help set up the right estate and intestacy plan for you.
Author: Jane Otterstrom
This information is general in nature only. You should consult a lawyer before acting on any of this information. This information should not be considered as legal advice. To learn more about your legal needs, please contact our office at (250) 448-2637 or any of our lawyers practicing in the area of wills and estates at the following:Jennette Vopicka: firstname.lastname@example.org Danielle (Dani) Brito: email@example.com Jane Otterstrom: firstname.lastname@example.org