Trends in Canadian Will Writing – 2021 Will Survey

Five years ago, LegalWills.ca conducted a unique survey of Will Writing in Canada. We wanted to not only explore the number of Canadians with and without Wills, but also the number of people who had a Will, but felt it had not been kept up-to-date. We broke down these numbers by region, income, and age, and published the numbers on our blog.

In the five years since then, there have been a number of events that we have felt may have influenced these numbers, not the least of which has been the COVID-19 pandemic. As we reported at LegalWills.ca, and the article was picked up in the media, the pandemic caused a massive spike in Will writing.

In the last five years we have also seen a proliferation of new convenient Will writing tools from service providers offering some of the services offered by LegalWills.ca. At least five service providers have popped up since our last survey, including Willfora, OM Company, Willowbee, Willful, and Epilogue Wills. The services range from “work in progress” to actually quite good, and range from “absolutely free” to $139 for a simple Will. All of the service providers have one thing in common: they are all claiming significant success in encouraging Canadians to write their Will by offering a convenient alternative to making an appointment with a lawyer. We have also seen companies like Axess Law appear on Canada’s fastest growing businesses with their budget Will writing service for $200. There have also been technical innovations from companies like Notice Connect offering the Canada Will Registry and NotaryPro.ca offering virtual witnessing and Notarizing of Wills.

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How to cover assets outside of Canada in your Will – the Expat Will.

We live in an increasingly global World. People travel more, settle into new countries, and even share their time between different countries. Traditionally, the idea of owning assets in different countries was reserved for the extremely wealthy. But nearly ten years ago, at LegalWills.ca we created the Expat Will, the first of its kind available anywhere, and we have been pleasantly surprised at how frequently this services has been used.

The Expat Will solves a problem that cannot be addressed by traditional approaches to Will writing. And offers a service to an increasing number of people with assets in more than one country.

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Did COVID inspire more people to write their Will in 2020/2021?

At LegalWills.ca we have provided an online option for preparing estate planning documents since 2001. This gives our company a unique insight into industry trends and allows us to explore the triggers for writing a Will. But in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the last 12 months has been a truly unique experience for us.

Will writing is traditionally one of those tasks that you just don’t get around to. The statistics bear this out, with our own survey showing that around two thirds of Canadian adults do not have their Will in place. Most of these people know that it’s important to write a Will, but it’s a task that is put off until next week, next month or next year.

However, in 2020 and 2021, something very dramatic happened. LegalWills.ca saw an incredible spike in the number of people writing their Will. There was a lot happening around the World, but the obvious conclusion was that the COVID-19 pandemic nudged people to finally get their Will in place.

At LegalWills.ca we felt that the sudden surge in Will writing was fascinating, and we wanted to take a deep dive into the motivation for writing a Will. We are fortunate to have a large pool of customers who we can ask the simple question, “Why did you decide to write your Will?”

Why do people usually write their Will?

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Advance Serious Illness Planning – how does this fit into an estate plan?

At LegalWills.ca we provide the tools for all key “estate planning” documents. These include a Last Will and Testament, Financial Power of Attorney, and “Living Will”. According to leading medical practitioners, one key document is missing – a document that describes the medical treatment you wish to receive if you have a serious illness. Not an “end-of-life” document, Advance Serious Illness Planning. We met with Dr Daren Heyland of Queens University. He has created the Plan Well Guide, and kindly agreed to write a guest article for us.

Dr. Daren K. Heyland, MD, MSc, FRCPC

Advance Serious Illness Planning (ASIP): A conversation with a critical care doctor

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What makes writing a Will in Québec unique?

Overview of Writing a Will in Québec

Une version française de cet article apparaît sous la version anglaise


Everybody has a legal right to prepare their Will. But there are a few different approaches to doing this.

Did you know that you could write your Will on the back of a napkin. It would be a perfectly legal document and if it’s all in your own handwriting, it’s known as a holographic Will. In most Canadian Provinces this document doesn’t even need to be witnessed to be accepted by the courts. Quebec allows you to prepare a holographic Will and accepts it as a legal document.

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Couple’s Will – Writing Wills as a couple in Canada.

Fifty-five percent of the people who use the Will writing service at LegalWills.ca describe themselves as married, a further eleven percent are in a common-law relationship. In most cases, these people are preparing their Wills as a couple. Looking for a “couple’s Will”. In this post we want to break down exactly what is meant by a Couple’s Will, and the steps involved in creating Wills for two people when using the service at LegalWills.ca

Creating a couple's Will at LegalWills.ca
Couple creating their Will at LegalWills.ca

How can I prepare a Will in Canada?

Let us start by discussing the different ways to prepare a Last Will and Testament in Canada which boils down to essentially three approaches:

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Why writing a Will is the first thing to do as a new parent

Guest post by Barry Choi: a personal finance and travel expert based in Toronto who makes frequent media appearances. His website moneywehave.com is one of Canada’s top resources for anything related to travel and money. Barry shares his thoughts on the importance of Writing Will as a new parent.

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In 2017, my wife and I welcomed our daughter to the world. I wish I could tell you everything went according to plan, but it took years to get pregnant. It’s not like something just clicked one day, we had to get help via IVF.

It was a daunting process with many appointments and tens of thousands of dollars spent. We researched the topic and spoke to various healthcare professionals and parents who also faced a similar ordeal. When she was finally born, we knew she was a miracle, so we wanted to ensure that we cherished every moment with her.

Writing a Will as a new parent
Credit: Pexels

Unfortunately, we made one significant mistake right away. We didn’t get our wills set up. It took close to a year before we got them done and admittedly, there was more than one occasion where I thought to myself, what if?

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Why we’ve decided to help Education workers

Let me start this article by saying that we believe everybody should have a Will. I have a Will, I wrote my first Will when I was 30 years old before I was married and before I had children.

A Will is a key document that should be in everybody’s drawer. It is not a once-in-a-lifetime task, you write a Will as soon as you are an adult, and then you should update it throughout your life as your personal and financial circumstances change.

Free Wills for Education workers
credit: 123rf

But the reality is that most people don’t have a Will. Traditionally the process has been expensive and inconvenient. It just doesn’t make it to the top of the ToDo list. Survey after survey shows that about 65% of Canadian adults do not have an up-to-date Will in place.

But in our 20 years of offering our services, we have seen key triggers for Will writing. Every year, the first week of January is a busy one for us; people make New Year’s Resolutions and commit to getting their affairs in order.

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Yes, we now support Québec Wills!

We wrote a blog article back in 2014 explaining why we didn’t support Québec Wills. We explained that it was a really tricky challenge. But the good news is, that after months of work, we can now proudly say that our service is available across the whole of Canada, no exceptions. All of our services now support all Canadian Provinces and Territories, including Québec.

Quebec Wills

Background to Québec Law on Wills

To provide some background, Québec law was established around the middle of the 17th century. Louis XIV decreed that the laws of Québec would be based on the laws of Paris, which were a variant of “civil law”. Although the laws changed a little in the years that followed, the Québec Act of 1774 reinstated the Civil law system for the Province of Québec, even though it had since been placed under British rule. When Canada was officially created in 1867, all Provinces adopted the British “Common law” of English origin, while Québec retained their “Civil Law” derived from the Napoleonic code.

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Working with a Will – The most common problems that arise

At LegalWills.ca, we help you to write your Will. We do not get involved in the probate process at all. After you have died, your Will is probated, and your Executor has the responsibility to carry out the instructions in your Will. Sometimes this is where the problems start and estate disputes arise.

This is separate from a challenge to a Will. These are arguments arising while the estate is being managed by the Executor.

We recently spoke to Neil Milton of Ontario-Probate.ca. He specialized in probating of estates and has seen first hand the kinds of problems that can arise, and he also knows how to fix them.

He has kindly prepared this guest article, distilling his knowledge into the most common types of disputes that crop up while the Executor is trying to manage an estate.


Common estate disputes

While there are many causes of estate disputes, formal ‘will challenges’ are actually quite rare.

Common estate disputes
Credit: 123rf

There are a whole host of grievances that people have which usually fall in to one of the falling categories:

  • Debts incurred by the deceased before their death and not paid before death;
  • Gifts made by the deceased before their death which reduce the size of their estate;
  • Obligations created by statute which must be paid by the estate before any distribution is made to beneficiaries;
  • Failure of the estate trustee to act at all;
  • Improper actions by the estate trustee; and,
  • Allegations that the will itself should be invalid (a ‘will challenge’).

Disputes in these difference categories are often handled by the Courts very differently – some are relatively quick and inexpensive to pursue, others are very complex and expensive.  It is very important to get the advice of experience legal counsel to determine whether there is a case and if so how to pursue it.

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Writing your Will is the first step – how to help your Executor

Online Will writing services have changed the game for Will writing. The traditional barriers of cost and convenience no longer apply. There was a time when a simply Will would cost $600 and take two or three visits to a lawyer. These visits would have to be co-ordinated with a spouse and other family members. Then if the Will needed to be updated, the whole process would have to be endured again.

It is not surprise then that the vast majority of Canadian adults don’t have a Will.

With online Will writing services, the costs have been brought down dramatically, so a Will can now be written for as little as $39.95. And of course the time consuming appointments are a thing of the past – you can just put the kids to bed, put your feet up, pick up your iPad and write your Will.

Writing your Will with LegalWills.ca

We now expect more people to be writing their Will, simply because the process is so much more convenient and affordable. Most people who use our service wonder why they left it so long

Google review
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What happens to your debt when you die?

We are often asked this question from people who have been named as the Executor in a Will. They need to know if they are personally liable for any debts owed and what if there is not enough in the estate to cover them. What happens to your debt when you die?

Our friends at Ratehub have put together this article for us as a guest post.


What happens to your debt when you die?
Credit: 123rf

Debt is a part of life, and most Canadians are carrying around a significant amount, be it through credit cards, mortgages, and other lines of credit. With so many of us relying on credit, it’s no surprise that people often die with outstanding debts left unpaid.

It’s not always easy to talk about, but it’s important to make a plan for your debt ahead of time. Here’s a primer on what happens to debt when you die in Canada, which can help you get started.

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Estate planning in troubled times

Today’s blog post isn’t quite like anything we’ve done before. We felt, all things considered, that it was important to connect with you all on a more human level. Even though we’re still working away behind the scenes, it certainly isn’t ‘business as usual’ for us — or for anyone for that matter.

It’s hard to ignore that things aren’t really all that ‘normal’. A lot of us are feeling uneasy, scared even, about what the future could possibly have in store. Those are natural feelings to have about the situation, considering there’s no official end date in sight to this crisis state we’re in. 

There is one particular group who, despite their fear and worries, are being asked to step up. We’re talking about front line healthcare workers; the unsung heroes who are risking their lives to keep us out of harm’s way. The doctors, nurses, caregivers, and medical staff are working around the clock in our hospitals; putting the care of others ahead of their own physical and emotional well-being.

Our CTO, Henry Raud, has a daughter who is a Registered Nurse, working on the front lines to diagnose and care for COVID-19 patients. “Every day, I am concerned about my daughter contracting this virus, especially given that thousands of healthcare workers around the world have already been infected, and far too many of whom have died. As a father, I can’t help but feel concerned for my daughter’s safety. But more than anything, I am extremely proud of her for what she is doing to help people to get through this crisis. She absolutely loves what she is doing, despite all the risks. I can’t imagine any father being more proud than I am right now. And I am thankful for all of the other healthcare workers out there, risking their lives in the same way to help everyone that they can.”

Healthcare workers, just like Henry’s daughter, are keeping our families, friends, and communities safe. Even with a dangerously low supply of PPE and medical resources across the board, they continue to show up to do their part to help us all through this. They are protecting those nearest and dearest to us — and we wanted to do our part to help protect what’s nearest and dearest to them; their families, their friends, their assets. It really is the least we could do.

That is why we have decided to join our peers in the online estate planning community in offering free Wills and Power of Attorneys to our healthcare heroes. These healthcare heroes are being directed to get their affairs in order, while they continue to combat this disease. Helping facilitate the process for them is the best way that we can give back.

Our mandate has always been to make estate planning affordable and convenient, and it is our core belief that every adult should have a Will, Power of Attorney, and Living Will in place. We have worked for 20 years to remove the barriers to doing this. Especially now, the importance of being able to prepare these documents from the comfort of your home comes into sharp focus.

To start working on your Will please send an email to [email protected] from your healthcare work email account with your Name and Employee ID. There you will receive instructions on opening your account and preparing your Will.

Thank you! We truly appreciate everything that you do to keep us well!

Tim Hewson, CEO, LegalWills

Every document you need – how to write it, and how much it costs.

We live in unprecedented times. We have a COVID-19 global pandemic. People are being told to self-isolate. Others are being placed in quarantine.

It’s a worrying situation that does not appear to be abating.

It may be time to pause and to think about which documents you should have in place. If COVID-19 goes away, and we all hope it does, these documents are still important, and will last you for the rest of your life. Hopefully that will be another 50 years or more. The documents may need to be updated as your circumstances change, but it is important to have them in place.

In this article we will describe a complete list of documents that you should put in place. We will explain how to create one, how much it costs, and the legal formalities for each.

Estate planning documents
Your important documents
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The Canada Will Registry

We receive a call almost daily that sounds something like:

“My father has recently died. We know he had a Will, but we can’t find it. What can we do?”

The simple answer is, keep looking. If you die, and nobody can find your Will, the result is exactly the same as dying without a Will. It is called “dying intestate” and your estate will be distributed according to Provincial laws.

All of the time (and money) that you put into preparing your Will counts for nothing if nobody can find it.

Canada Will Registry

Will Registry in Canada

There are some confusing aspects of Will Registration to clear up first.

Every Will in Canada is registered after it is probated. Most Wills in Canada are probated, but this happens after you have died. If you are looking for the Will of somebody who has died, then you can usually find the Will with an application to the local probate courts.

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An estate plan for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – The Expat Will?

Disclaimer: This article is using the Duke and Duchess of Sussex as an illustration of a widely experienced situation. We are not suggesting that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle use our service; it would be up to them to decide whether the Expat Will service at LegalWills.ca is a good fit for them. We have certainly seen people with wealth, surrounded by a legal team, write their own Will, or even die without a Will. But each individual would need to decide the best approach for themselves. We refer to them as “Harry and Meghan” in the article, but it could be anybody.

Disclaimer 2: This article is not legal advice. It is presented as general information which may or may not apply to your own personal situation.

You have probably heard by now, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are moving from the UK to Canada. There is a chance that they may buy property in Canada. Prince Harry is a UK citizen. Meghan Markle is an American citizen. Their son, Archie, is probably dual citizen UK and US, now being raised in Canada.

What does this all mean for their estate planning?

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Canadian estate planning quiz


Explanation of the answers

This was a tough quiz covering estate planning in Canada. In this article we will provide you with some explanations for our answers.

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What should be included in a Will if you have children?

If you have young children, it is critical to write a Will. The challenge of course is that you are busy, and co-ordinating time with a lawyer, and perhaps your partner is very difficult. So difficult, that this is a task that is unlikely to make it to the top of the To Do list for today, or even this week.

Fortunately online services like the Will writing service at LegalWills.ca makes the process much most convenient and of course significantly more affordable than preparing a Will with a lawyer.

This article gives an overview of why a Will is critical, what you can do within a Will, specifically if you have children, and how you can prepare a Will in a cost effective and convenient way. We also discuss why and how you can update a Will if circumstances change.

Write a Will

What are the key elements in a Will?

You probably think of a Will as a document that describes the distribution of your assets (possessions) after you have passed away. This is, of course, a significant part of a Will, and one of the most important reasons for preparing one.

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Online Will service – 10 things that you can do at LegalWills.ca

LegalWills.ca features that are not supported by any other leading online Will service.

We often see reviews of online Will writing services. These reviews typically look as far as pricing, look and feel of the website, maybe support options. Unfortunately reviewers rarely take the Will service itself for a test drive. They don’t usually imagine different scenarios to determine how capable the Will service is in addressing different demands.

At LegalWills.ca we confidently regard our Will writing service as the most complete, and most flexible service of any online Will application.

Online Will service

In this article, we will take a quick look at just ten things that you can do at LegalWills.ca, things that are not supported by other leading online Will writing platforms.

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A Codicil – what it is, and why it is not the right solution.

Do you have a Will already? you just need to make a slight change to it? Perhaps you had a lawyer prepare your Will for several hundreds of dollars you don’t want that money to go to waste, but now you need to update it. After doing some research, you have determined that a codicil is what you need.

Let us explain exactly what a codicil is, and why it’s probably not the solution you are looking for.

Codicil to a Will

The origins of a Codicil

The first step in understanding the role of a codicil is to look at the history of the law related to Wills. In Canada, Estate planning laws were based on the UK Wills Act (except for the Province of Quebec). This law was written in 1837, and surprisingly, not too much has changed in the last 180 plus years.

In 1837, if you wanted to write a Will it would have looked like this

Handwritten Will

Imagine, a week after you had gone to the trouble of having your Will prepared, you wanted to make a change. The Will writer wouldn’t have wanted to rewrite the whole document, so the Wills Act made a provision for a codicil. It’s a “middle English” word meaning “little codex”, or according to Mirriam-Webster “a little bit of writing on a small piece of writing material, used to add to or change something about a larger piece of writing.”

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