If you’re married, have kids, or own any property, you probably know that you should have a Will. But you might have questions like… Can I just have a handwritten will? What about online Wills & DIY kits? Do I need a lawyer? There really is no one-size-fits-all answer. It ultimately depends on things like whether you have a blended family, property outside of the province, the size of your estate, and several other factors. In today’s article, we’ll explain the pros and cons so that you can decide which option is right for you.
What is a DIY Will?
Do-it-yourself style Wills can be started online, they’re sometimes offered in the form of kits, or they can be written by hand (also known as a holographic Will). We’ll get into each of these in more detail but, to get started, here are a few key things to know about handwritten Wills:
- They are legal in Alberta but not in all provinces or territories across the country
- The Will must be in your own writing and be signed
- This type of Will is most useful in an emergency, and your wishes should be stated as clearly as possible to reduce the likelihood of grey areas giving rise to a dispute
Pros of DIY Wills
Creating a do-it-yourself Will typically costs less than hiring a lawyer and can usually be done quickly. A DIY Will may be suitable for you if:
- You don’t have children who are minors or dependents
- You have no concerns about estate disputes regarding your wishes or the division of assets between family members
- You need to write a Will as quickly as possible in an emergency situation
Cons of DIY Wills
This type of Will may not be valid if it does not comply with the legal requirements of your province or territory, such as the number of witnesses required. A DIY Will may also be unclear, incomplete, or inconsistent, which could lead to disputes among your beneficiaries or delays in the probate process. A DIY Will may not be suitable for you if:
- You have a larger or more complex estate that involves multiple assets, beneficiaries, or jurisdictions
- You have children who are minors or dependents who need guardianship or trust arrangements
- You have a blended family or children from previous relationships who may have different claims
- You want to minimize potential estate taxes
- You want to leave gifts to charity or specific instructions for your funeral
- You have any doubts or questions about your legal rights and obligations
Hiring a Lawyer
A Will can be written with the help of a lawyer who specializes in Wills and Estates. Your lawyer can advise you on the legal requirements, implications of your decisions, draft the document for you, and ensure that it is properly signed and witnessed.
The main advantages of preparing a Will with a lawyer are accuracy and peace of mind. Your Will more likely to be valid if it is prepared by a lawyer who knows the law and can tailor it to your specific needs and wishes. It can also help you avoid potential problems and conflicts among your heirs or with the government by addressing any issues or concerns that may arise. This option may be suitable for you if:
• You have a large or complex estate that involves multiple assets, beneficiaries, or jurisdictions
• You have minor children or dependents who need guardianship or trust arrangements
• You have a blended family or children from previous relationships who may have different claims
• You want to minimize potential estate taxes or avoid probate fees
• You want to leave gifts to charity or specific instructions for your funeral
• You have any doubts or questions about your legal rights and obligations
Depending on the complexity of your estate and the lawyer’s fees, hiring a lawyer may cost more. We recommend looking for a lawyer that charges a flat rate for their legal services, so that you know exactly what you will be paying. In emergency situations, where you need a Will in 24 hours or less, it’s unlikely that you could get a legal Will with a lawyer in that timeframe.
So, what’s the verdict?
Writing a Will is an often-overlooked but very important step in planning for the future and protecting your loved ones. The decision to choose a do-it-yourself Will or hire a lawyer ultimately depends on your personal circumstances and preferences.