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Discussion Starter #1
Hi:

I'm embarrassed to admit that my wife and I are still without a last Will and Testament. This is something I aim to rectify ASAP and was wondering if people had thoughts on using the online DIY kits, wizards, etc.? Or am I talking crazy and should rush out to a proper lawyer and simply cough up the extra dough?

I am genuinely without a clue and so wanted to be sure the extra money I pay the lawyer for what I think is a fairly cookie cutter type situation is actually money well spent.

If some of you recommend the DIY route, which online service have you used?

Pab
 

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I recommend a lawyer, but shop around for a reasonably priced one. You should able to get it done for $300-$400 for the pair of you, but I have heard of people paying twice that. It helps to buy and read a DIY wills & estate guide so you will have a better understanding of what questions/information the lawyer will want, and so you will go to him/her prepared.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I've been Googling since I posted and concluded that a lawyer was the way to go. The type of service I had in mind when I asked were sites like
http://www.legalwills.ca and http://www.lawdepot.com.

Oddly enough, LegalWills.ca's press release discussing a CBC Market Watch piece (http://www.legalwills.ca/news_995_010710.aspx) had the opposite effect and convinced me that the online approach was not for me. It struck me that I wouldn't be all that comfortable with the idea of providing so much personal information to a seemingly anonymous web site.

OGG: You're suggestion of reading up before we go in is sound advice. Any recommendations? So far, I've found "You can't take it with you" by Sandra Foster and "The Canadian Guide to Will & Estate Planning" by Douglas Gray and John Budd.

Thanks for the reply!
 

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Just to give you a ballpark idea - I work at a law firm in Calgary that does a lot of high-end estate planning. We charge $850 for a couple. This includes a will, personal directive and power of attorney for each person.

$300-$400 seems quite low, but it might be the fact that we deal with more affluent people that makes it cost more.
 

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I think the choice all depends on the complexity of your estates. If they are "simple", then there's nothing wrong with a DIY Will, which usually holds up quite well in court. To decide if your needs are "simple", ask yourself these questions:
- are your assets easily identified and your ownership of those assets unquestionable?
- do you own real estate that is NOT jointly owned with the person whom you want to leave it to?
- is there likely to be any disputes over your estate (how well do your family members get along)?
- are you sure of how you want your estate distributed, or are you going to keep second-guessing yourself?

Probably the third point is the most important one, since the main benefit of having a lawyer do it is to produce a solid, loophole-free Will that leaves no room for argument. Whereas a self-produced Will might result in wording that could have differing interpretations, and it may cause problems for your family if they have difficulty resolving any conflicts that this may create.

I recently got married and creating a Will is now on my to-do list, so I looked around to see what my options are. Since my situation is very simple, I don't feel like I would gain much by spending $300 or more on a lawyer. It wasn't hard to find a FREE kit that you download and print (no submitting personal details online), then just fill in the blanks according to the provided instructions. For anyone interested, the one I intend to use is found on the Canadian Financial Security Program website. It includes the Last Will and Testament, Living Will, and Enduring Power of Attorney.
 

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Just to give you a ballpark idea - I work at a law firm in Calgary that does a lot of high-end estate planning. We charge $850 for a couple. This includes a will, personal directive and power of attorney for each person.

$300-$400 seems quite low, but it might be the fact that we deal with more affluent people that makes it cost more.
To be frank, $850 is a small price to pay when one may need to consider hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars of assets.
 

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To be frank, $850 is a small price to pay when one may need to consider hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars of assets.

But if there is no need to spend that money, it is a huge price.


A simple situation can be done without a lawyer. The old man did one up with a computer based kit [installed on the computer, not web] and just to be safe he had a Lawyer do the once over and it was fine.

Really how hard is it to say everything goes 50/50 to both kids [widow he be], and some boiler plate about predeceased.
Or the house goes to X, account A goes to Y everything else goes to Z.

Granted if you have a horribly complicated asset set up, that is different but most don't.
 

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Any of the Self-Counsel series sold in bookstores in your province for writing wills, such as.: "Wills for (Ontario) - How to Make Your Own Will" or "Wills/Probate Procedure for (Ontario)"
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Interesting follow-ups...

I called a few places locally (Greater Moncton area) and was quoted $300 for both of us. In one case, this included Power of Attorney while with another I'd have to shell out an extra $75 (not sure if that was one or both though).

That said, the free will kit that Elbyron points to seems interesting. I'm thinking I might use it to get something done quickly while I read through Sandra Foster's book (picked up a copy at the library yesterday). At the very least, it can act as a draft/first run while I come up to speed on the subject. Once I have a better idea about things, maybe I'll end up doing the lawyer thing... we'll see.

Thanks for all the feedback!
 

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As a Certified Financial Planner, I have written an Estate Planning series:


Basics of Estate Planning Part 1



Basics of Estate Planning Part 2


Basics of Estate Planning Part 3


Basics of Estate Planning Part 4


Basics of Estate Planning Part 5

Basics of Estate Planning Part 6

A lawyer will cover all possibilities and will make sure that you and your family are covered no matter how things go. If you do it yourself, you will definitely forget about a few situations and may request things that are illegal or cannot be done according to Canadian laws.
 

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+1 Definitely would use a lawyers services for the all possibilities reference.

Looking at $350 to $400 in Ontario to get 2 wills and 4 POA's for a married couple in Ontario done by a lawyer.
 

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Whether you do it yourself or use a lawyer, be sure to do your own research on your own particular circumstances.

My mother had a lawyer draw up a simple one page Will which was supposed to leave the estate equally divided between my brother and myself.

After mum died, another son who she had given up at birth and who I didn't know existed and who wasn't mentioned in the will, appeared and is claiming 1/3 of the estate.

Some lawyers chase ambulances but others chase hearses especially in BC with its (the courts know best) Wills Variation Act. Most ambulance riders would be able to represent themselves in court. The same cannot be said for those riding in the back of a hearse.

Do your research!
 

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Whether you do it yourself or use a lawyer, be sure to do your own research on your own particular circumstances.

My mother had a lawyer draw up a simple one page Will which was supposed to leave the estate equally divided between my brother and myself.

After mum died, another son who she had given up at birth and who I didn't know existed and who wasn't mentioned in the will, appeared and is claiming 1/3 of the estate.

Some lawyers chase ambulances but others chase hearses especially in BC with its (the courts know best) Wills Variation Act. Most ambulance riders would be able to represent themselves in court. The same cannot be said for those riding in the back of a hearse.

Do your research!
I find your story interesting and will do some research on the Wills Variation Act in BC. Do you know how your mother could have worded her will differently to avoid this situation?

What a headache for you and your sibling to go through. It's bad enough losing a loved one without having to go to court afterwards.
 

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I found the post on the BC Wills Variation Act interesting so did a search to learn more. I found a legal blog that has a series of articles on the topic. The blog can be found at:

http://rulelaw.blogspot.com/2005/09/wills-variation-act-who-may-apply.html

Below is what it says about the topic as it relates to Belize's post:

“Child” and “Children” are not defined in the Wills Variation Act, but includes a natural child, whether the child is born inside or outside of marriage, and an adopted child.

Neither a natural child of the deceased who has been adopted out to other parents, nor a stepchild has any claim under the Wills Variation Act. Even a minor stepchild who was dependant on the deceased cannot apply for a share of the estate under the Wills Variation Act. The British Columbia Supreme Court held that the exclusion of step children from the Wills Variation Act does not offend the equality provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in McCrea v. Barrett, 2004 BCSC 208.

Belize, is there a court date set for your case or is it still in the preliminary stage? I'm very interested in learning more if you are willing to share.
 

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I actually used the service at www.legalwills.ca referred to earlier on in this thread and found it to be very convenient and easy to use. They also allow you to go back at a later date and make any changes to it.

I know it doesn't work for every situation but I knew that I wanted to leave everything to my wife, and have an alternative in case something happened to both of us. It seemed a little too much to pay $400 for legal advice and book an appointment with a lawyer, so this service worked well for us.
 

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In my limited experience, the will itself is merely a by-product of the more valuable will-making process -- it's easy enough to read through a will and say "I could have done that" without recognizing everything that was ruled out.

One person brought in their own will and asked me to simply review it and notarize it, but I refused. The important part of doing a will is not the end product -- it is the information interview, when the entire estate is reviewed, and there is opportunity to ask the questions about the things that might derail an estate down the road. Not worth the risk of having them leave and tell their family that my firm okayed it.

One of the benefits of doing a will with a lawyer is that it theoretically transfers the risk of preparing the will negligently. If the lawyer screws up the will (which is surprisingly easy to do with certain types of estates, such as farmers who are land-rich and cash-poor), you can make a claim against the lawyer. All lawyers carry insurance for this sort of thing.

Another benefit to doing a will with a lawyer is that it decreases the possibility of the will being overturned because of a technicality related to improper execution -- the testator was looking the other way at the time that one of the witnesses signed, etc. Ridiculous. But my province has deeply flawed wills legislation. Maybe Ontario's act makes more sense.

I bought one of those will kits a few years ago, and it was full of interesting advice and helpful tips. Worth the money (only $30) just for the way that it made me think about wills in a different way.
 

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One of the benefits of doing a will with a lawyer is that it theoretically transfers the risk of preparing the will negligently. If the lawyer screws up the will (which is surprisingly easy to do with certain types of estates, such as farmers who are land-rich and cash-poor), you can make a claim against the lawyer. All lawyers carry insurance for this sort of thing.
Is a lawyer still covered by insurance when he retires? The lawyer my mother used is retired and has no interest in looking for his old files. Our estate lawyer appears to have no interest in chasing him down for the information.
 

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The answer to your question is yes. Whenever the negligent act took place, as long as he was insured (and all practicing lawyers are insured as a req of their law society or governing body), there is a possibility of making a claim. The rule of thumb is that you have two years from the date of the wrong to make a legal claim. With wills, that 2-year deadline is calculated in a different way -- such as from the date the wrong was discoverable by the beneficiaries, or something like that.

In your case it doesn't seem likely that it was the lawyer who made an error. It would be negligent not to ask someone how many children they had -- but if they did ask and the testator said "2", then the lawyer can't be faulted for not questioning that. Different story if she said "2 that I keep in touch with". The current lawyer you have may not want to incur the extra fees it will take to chase down what is likely a dead end. It doesn't hurt to ask your current lawyer what their reasoning is for not checking on that.

Sorry to hear of your situation and best of luck.
 
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