The dangers of online wills - MoneySense

Dangers of DIY wills

Before falling for these cheaper options, read this

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Q: I’m considering getting an online will. What are the pros and cons of having my will done up this way?

—Sam

A: Sam, you asked me to identify pros and cons of making wills online. I understand online services allow you to make your own will. No lawyer is involved in providing advice. I will describe the dangers.

I must disclose that I have a conflict. I am an Ontario Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts Law. This means that I have a bias. Online wills are no substitute for lawyer prepared wills. There are only dangers, not advantages, as I will describe.

Do online wills have benefits?

There are no positives for online will services. At least none that I can recommend. Most online forms include disclaimers. They are not responsible for what you do with their forms. Like all do-it-yourself wills, you may be only fooling yourself. You may think you have protected your family.

How would you know if your online will has mistakes? What does your family do if there are errors or problems?

Most online forms do not consider your unique needs. Even if you paid for legal advice, it would not help to prepare online wills.

 Use lawyers to prepare your will if…

I can never recommend online will services. However, these providers should tell you not to use their service if:

  1. You’re going to be married.
  2. You have a history of cognitive impairment.
  3. You are separated from your partner.
  4. You have a common-law spouse.
  5. You’ve been recently in hospital.
  6. Your estate may have a recreational home, rental property or business.
  7. You need dual wills to save probate tax.
  8. You own or will inherit assets outside of Canada.
  9. You need help choosing executors.
  10. You have minor children or dependents with special needs.

This is not the ultimate list but it’s a good start.

Some people using online will forms will ignore risks. They want convenience and set prices. Remember these services cannot give you any tax advice. And any information they supply is no substitute for legal advice.

Help make your decisions

You cannot judge the quality of your online will. What is missing and what did you leave out or forget? Do you know if you cheated yourself or your loved ones?

Lawyers are insured in case they make a mistake. They must take professional education each year to provide services.

The charities you wish to benefit would suggest you use a lawyer. Your best investment for everyone is a lawyer-prepared will.

(This information is not legal advice. It is not a substitute for meeting with a lawyer to review your needs.)

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Ed Olkovich is a Toronto lawyer and certified specialist in Estate and Trusts Law

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