Must you use a lawyer? No.
Should you use a lawyer? Yes, often (but not always).
Where or not you need a lawyer to assists you depends on –
- whether your circumstances are simple or not (not whether the will is simple or not), and
- whether you want or need explanation of your options and choices.
If your budget is small and your circumstances are simple then an online will (an online version of a ‘will kit’) may meet your needs well for a very low cost.
Simple circumstances does not mean ‘I am not rich’ nor that ‘I just want a simple will’. Simple circumstances means that all of the following are ‘straightforward’ with no complexity or wrinkles –
- your assets,
- your family relationships and
- your planning choices.
Your circumstances may be simple (and thus suitable for an online will) if:
- You have never been married and have no children
- You have only ever been in one marriage, and
- Want your spouse to inherit all of your assets if they survive you, and
- You want you child(ren) to inherit your assets equally if your spouse has already died or pre-deceases you.
In short, ‘simple wills’ often work best for “single people”, ‘young people in a first marriage’, and ‘elderly single parents who want to benefit their children equally’.
Your circumstances are definitely NOT simple if any of the following apply:
- You want an explanation and advice of your choices and options;
- You want confirmation that your beneficiary designations and jointly-owned assets fit with your estate plan and will pass as you intended;
- You are separated and there is any outstanding financial issue or payment due by either party;
- You are divorced and owe or are owed funds;
- You are widowed and want to give to your children via a plan that deals in an integrated fashion with your house, RRSP/RRIF, TFSA, while minimizing probate taxes;
- You are a parent in a blended family (your spouse is not also a parent of your children)
- You want to provide for your current spouse during their lifetime, but then to your children (and not have your spouse gift to your assets to their children or a new spouse);
- You are estranged from a child;
- You want your estate to flow in different amounts to different children (or you want to disinherit one entirely);
- You want to provide for a child but protect those funds in the case of divorce;
- You want to provide for an adult with special needs (such as one of your children), including mental health, spendthrift, or substance abuse challenges;
- You want to benefit a minor child and do not want to give the funds to that child’s parent;
- You are unable to name a trusted person resident in Ontario as your executor;
- You own assets with accrued tax liabilities (low cost base);
- You have trust or financial obligations to third parties beyond ‘normal’ credit card and mortgage debt;
- You own property outside Ontario; or,
- You own shares in a private company.
If any of these apply, your needs are NOT simply and you will benefit from a professionally created estate plan.
The cost of a mistake is much higher than the cost of a properly prepared estate plan and will.
Your questions answered
It is easy to make estate planning mistakes (like thinking that joint tenancy with an adult child or a beneficiary designation of a RRIF will avoid probate and will not cause litigation), and it is easy be fooled into thinking that your situation is ‘simple’ when it is not.
We offer a unique ‘questions-answered and initial advice’ service for $275.
If you want a second opinion on your estate plan, or have questions about joint ownership or beneficiary designations or taxes or any other aspect of wills or estate planning, this is a simple, fixed fee, and cost-effective way to get peace of mind.
This peace-of-mind professional advice often fits well with a simple online will, to ensure that you have done everything correctly.
However, if, after the review you subsequently choose to re-do your estate plan with us, we will credit the cost of the initial review in full against the cost of providing you with a full estate plan, including customized wills and powers of attorney.