Are Online Wills Safe? Advice from an Estate Planning Lawyer
May 18, 2023
Estate planning lawyers often get asked their opinion of online wills. These products advertise themselves as an inexpensive alternative to drafting your will. But remember the adage – you get what you pay for.
Online wills or legal will kits might be a good starting place to get you started, but in the end, no generic product can capture the details and complexity of your life. An experienced estate planning lawyer will guide you through the process and raise questions you didn’t even think to ask.
So, are online wills as good as working with an estate planning lawyer? No. Are they a good place to get started? They can be, with some important caveats.
Online Will Applications from an Estate Planning Lawyer
Estate lawyers and legal professionals develop good online will kits. Each application has its pros and cons. You will need to research carefully and follow the instructions meticulously for the will to be valid.
Also, make sure the application is valid in the province/territory where you live. Not all online will applications will cover the laws of your specific area. Selecting the wrong application can mean your will is invalid.
And don’t forget privacy concerns. It’s far too easy nowadays to provide sensitive information on the Internet. And far too easy for scammers and criminals to uncover that information and use it to defraud you.
It’s also important to read the legal disclaimers carefully. You’ll notice they often contain language noting they are not a legal service, and there is no guarantee of accuracy or validity.
What About Legal Will Kits?
While legal will kits come with reduced privacy concerns (you’re not entering compromising information online), they still come with all the other caveats of online will applications. They are one-size-fits-all solutions for complex situations. And there is generally no guarantee of accuracy or validity.
What Happens If You Die Without a Will in Place?
Here’s another adage – nothing is certain except death and taxes. Death is an inevitability, but many people don’t plan for it. Some put it off because they are young, healthy, starting a family, or they don’t think about it.
But if you die without a will, it can leave your family struggling to implement your final wishes, and your survivors may not be taken care of in the way you wish.
Dying without a valid will in place is called “intestacy,” and your property (home, savings, and pensions for instance.) will be passed down according to the Ontario Success Law Reform Act. The act designates that the people who can inherit an estate when there is no will is the spouse and closest next-of-kin. In this instance, “spouse” does not include a common-law spouse.
That means your money might not be provided to a common-law partner. It could go to a relative with whom you have a bad relationship – or even no relationship.
In addition, proper estate planning can help speed up the process of dividing your estate, minimize the taxes paid upon your death, and simplify the process for your survivors. That’s why we strongly recommend you don’t put off estate planning.
And Don’t Forget Powers of Attorney
While a will can help your family take care of your wishes after you die, Powers of Attorney can help them care for you while you are alive.
A Power of Attorney for property allows your designated appointee to care for your financial affairs (bank accounts, investments, paying bills) if you can no longer care for them due to physical or mental disabilities.
A Power of Attorney for personal care grants your appointee the power to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated.
An experienced estate planning lawyer can help you not only draw up your will but ensure your Powers of Attorney are in place. They can also keep copies of your documents on file for reference when needed.
Contact an Estate Planning Lawyer – Don’t Use Online Wills
Online wills and legal will kits are do-it-yourself laws. While most of us have the skills to hang a picture or screw in a light bulb, you’d contact an expert if you needed to frame a building or wire your house. When you are ready to make your will, contact the estate planning lawyers at Kelly D. Jordan Family Law Firm. We’ll walk you through our process, and help you build a customized plan to ensure your needs – and your family’s needs – are taken care of.
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Ontario.ca – Administering estates: https://www.ontario.ca/page/administering-estates