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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.


Simple Circumstances

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’.

Not simple

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.

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