The Risks of DIY Wills and Home Will Kits

Why not do my own will?

“Do-it-yourself” and home will kits are popular. However, they are also hazardous. While there is a long list of common mistakes, the most common is to omit a clause giving away the residue of the estate. Another common mistake is to give away an asset that no longer exists at the time of death. In either case the deceased’s wishes are unclear and probate becomes complex and more expensive.

Improper execution of a will is another common mistake. For example, if the witnesses to your will are not both present and able to see you sign the will and then see each other sign as witnesses, a court may find the will invalid. While the Wills, Estates and Succession Act introduced provisions allowing the court to grant orders “curing” defective wills, a court application may still be required to seek this order.

A will on its own may not be enough to meet your goals. If you wish to treat your children unequally, or if you wish to omit a child from your will, it is important that the terms are drafted properly. In addition, other documents and steps may be required. The same considerations apply with respect to treatment of spouse. It is important to seek professional advice to understand the implications of what you wish to do, what your legal obligations are, and to ensure that our will reflects this.

In addition to drafting your will, estate planning lawyers can also discuss options for minimizing probate, or to draft your will and arrange your assets in way that will minimize the possibility of litigation. The legal fees incurred to deal with an improperly drafted will, and the court claim that often arises as a result, are far greater than the fees incurred in drafting a will.

An estate planning lawyer will also discuss other documents with you that may be just as important, if not more important, than a will. In focusing on wills, which are for the benefit of your beneficiaries, people often forget about documents that will protect you during your lifetime, such as a Power of Attorney.

Who should I see to have a will prepared?

Many people are reluctant to seek professional help to assist them in organizing their estate. You have worked your whole life to build your assets, why would you risk seeing them depleted by legal fees, or risk having them distributed in a way that doesn’t reflect your wishes.

Just as you would not build your own house, or diagnose and treat your own medical conditions, you should not risk drafting your own will. Lawyers have the tools and experience necessary to assist you in creating an estate plan that meets your specific wishes, including minimizing probate fees and treatment of beneficiaries.

The lawyers at Johnston Franklin Bishop practice in both estate planning and litigation. It often takes more than a will alone to create an effective estate plan that will clearly state your wishes, and your reasons for same. We can discuss a variety of options to meet your goals.