In the realm of estate planning, the importance of having a will cannot be overstated. A will ensures that your wishes are carried out after your passing, providing clarity and direction to your loved ones during a difficult time. However, the process of creating a will can often seem daunting, leading many individuals to turn to will kits as a cheap, accessible, and quick solution. Will kits are documents that can be purchased online or in-store, which walk the user through the process of writing a will (often, this is done in a fill-in-the-blanks type format). But as with any DIY approach, there are both benefits and drawbacks worth considering when relying on a will kit for your estate planning needs.

 

The Good

There are several reasons why someone may choose to rely on a will kit.

  1. Cheap(er): Hiring a lawyer to draft a will incurs costs. In comparison, a will kit can be found online or in-store for a fraction of the price, leading many to believe that a using a will kit is the more cost-effective choice.
  2. Accessible: Since will kits can be found online and printed at home, they offer a way for people to write a will from the comfort of their own home. This consideration becomes especially important for those having trouble with mobility.
  3. Quick: People with busy schedules or urgent needs to create a will may opt for a will kit due to time constraints. They might see it as a quicker way to get their affairs in order without having to schedule appointments with a lawyer.

 

The Bad

The bad news is that will kits are not as great as they seem.

  1. A one-size-fits all approach: A major drawback of using a will kit is the lack of customization. Every individual and family situation is unique, and a one-size-fits-all approach may not adequately address specific needs or circumstances. Without personalized legal advice, important considerations or opportunities for tax optimization may be overlooked.
  2. Error-prone: DIY wills are more susceptible to errors and ambiguities, which can lead to legal challenges or disputes among beneficiaries after the testator’s death. These errors are highly likely because will kits do not offer the legal guidance necessary to navigate complex issues such as estate taxes, trusts, or guardianship arrangements. Without professional advice, individuals may inadvertently make decisions that have unintended consequences for those around them.

 

…and the Ugly

Mistakes in wording or failure to comply with legal formalities prescribed by Ontario’s laws can make the will difficult to interpret or render it invalid.

  1. Your will kit could lead to litigation: Ontario’s laws governing wills and estates are precise and may require specific formalities to ensure the validity of a will. DIY will kits may not adequately educate individuals on these legal requirements, leading to the inadvertent omission of crucial elements or failure to comply with formalities such as witness signatures. A will that does not meet the legal requirements could be challenged in court, potentially leading to litigation to determine its validity. In addition, inadequately drafted wills have the potential to create tension among family members, especially if beneficiaries feel unfairly treated or if the testator’s intentions are unclear. This can strain relationships and lead to costly and emotionally draining litigation to resolve disputes.
  2. Your will kit could be invalidated: Ontario’s laws regarding wills and estates are intricate and subject to change. Using a will kit without proper legal oversight increases the risk of creating a document that does not comply with current legal requirements. For example, a missing signature or a partially typed will may be deemed invalid. Even seemingly minor discrepancies or omissions can result in the will being declared invalid by the courts.

 

Takeaway:

When drafting a will, whether through a will kit or a lawyer, it is vital to return to your core goals and values. Do you want to ensure that your assets are distributed in a specific manner? Is your goal to provide for loved ones, or safeguard against unwanted outcomes and beneficiaries?

While a will kit may offer a quick and accessible solution, it may not provide the level of customization and expertise necessary to address your individual needs. In addition, while a will kit may be the cheaper option outright, you may be signing your loved ones up for spending thousands of dollars in legal fees later down the road (even if the matter is resolved amicably).

 

Ultimately, estate planning is about more than just filling in blanks or checking off boxes—it is about crafting a document that reflects your values, priorities, and desires for the future. After all, the decisions you make today will shape the future for you and your loved ones tomorrow.

 

Diana Begaliyeva

Nothing contained in this post constitutes legal advice or establishes a solicitor-client relationship. If you have any questions regarding your legal rights or legal obligations, you should consult a lawyer.