There are two types of people who comment on our pricing, those who have previously used a lawyer, and those who are considering the use of a free Will kit.
The first group usually say;
“Wow, I was quoted $800 to write my Will, and your service is less than $40. How can your service possibly be any good?”
the second group say;
“$40 for a Last Will and Testament? Why on earth would I pay that if I can pay nothing with a free Will kit?”
In this article we are going to address the issue raised by the second group.
Different ways to offer a free Will kit
There are three ways that a Will service can be offered free of charge. There are examples of these all over the internet.
Option 1. The free Will kit that isn’t…….free
Our two main competitors use this angle very effectively. The ad says “Free Will Kit” and sure enough, when you use the Will service it explains that the document is entirely free. They just ask you to enter your credit card details and you can receive your free Will…..hold on…..what?
Yes, the way this system works is that you get your free Will but you subscribe to their service. If you cancel within 7 days, then you pay nothing. If you don’t cancel within 7 days, then you will be charged every single month $40. But of course, you won’t be notified of the charge, you will have to catch them on your credit card statement.
“No problem” I hear you say “I will cancel within the 7 days and pay nothing for my Will”. but it turns out that it’s not quite as simple as that. You are kept waiting hours on hold to get through to somebody, and even when you get through, they tell you that it’s cancelled, but it appears on your next credit card statement.
Surely this cannot be true, nobody would run a business like this. Sadly, a quick look at the online reviews for these companies reveals that it is an even bleaker picture than I have painted here.
(A quick aside. A Better Business Bureau rating of A+ simply means that the company have replied to every complaint. It does not mean that there are no complaints about a company).
Case Study #1
Let us take a look at “free Will Kit” service number 1. A quick investigation into their reviews highlights the issue;
This company is as shady as they come. I recently realized I had been charged $33.00 a month thru my paypal account for over a year for a document I was led to believe was free. When I contacted XXXXXXX I was told that maybe the email advising the re-ocurring charges were sent to the wrong email address. They took it upon themselves to locate and charge my paypal account through an email without my authorization. Long story short my free document cost more than an actual attorney would charge.
It’s a free download as it states but you need to give your card details as after 7 days, if you do no cancel they will automatically debit your account. Yes it states on terms and conditions and on the email that they send to confirm but do not get caught out like me with the small print and please read wisely to what you are signing up for!! I should have known better and paid closer attention… make sure you do! And don’t bother calling to dispute as they are legally covered.
TOTAL SCAM SERIOUSLY I OPT FOR THE 7 day trial and then I DID CANCEL literally the next day… Come to find 5 months later they have been billing me the entire time! Never once sent me any email or statement! Such a SCAM, Steall money from people.
There are 55 of these on the sitejabber website for this service alone.
Case study #2
What about competitor number 2? Things aren’t much better at the Better Business Bureau who have given the service an A+ rating. They answered all 161 complaints against them. The nature of the complaints follow a similar theme. Remember, this is a different free Will kit service provider, on a different review site.
Credit where it’s due (please excuse the awful pun) but the company does appear to put things right when faced with a complaint at the Better Business Bureau. This is how they can maintain their A+ rating. But you can’t help feeling that there are countless other “customers” who are being charged every month for a service that they are not receiving.
We are not a mega corporation at LegalWills.ca. We all enjoy working here and we try to offer a engaged, genuine service. Our business model is not built on ripping people off and refunding a subset of these people. We couldn’t live with ourselves.
How does it work at LegalWills.ca?
We do not keep credit card details on file. We never automatically charge anybody anything.
The Will service costs $39.95. With this payment, you are able to prepare your Will, it also gives you one year of unlimited updates to the document. You are able to print the document as often as you wish during that first year. You can download it as a PDF or Word file, but to make your document a legal Will, you must print and sign it in the presence of two witnesses. The online version is there for your convenience only.
If you choose not to maintain an account with us after the first year, your initial payment is all you will ever pay. We do not keep credit card details on file and cannot automatically charge beyond this initial payment.
What about your “memberships”?
You can if you wish choose to store your documents online for longer than a year which will make it easier to make updates in the future to reflect any changes in your personal or financial situation (rather than returning to a lawyer each time). This is of course optional, but it does make the process of maintaining your document more convenient. $11.95 will give you one additional year of updates, or you can purchase multiple years e.g. 5 years at $24.95, 10 years at $34.95, 25 years at $74.95 ($3 per year). But you would have to step through the payment process again to make this payment, and re-enter your credit card details.
Every time you make an update to your Will, you must print and sign it in the presence of two witnesses again. If you choose not to maintain an account with us, you will always have your printed, signed document. If you don’t need to make changes to that document, it will last you for the rest of your life, whether or not you have an account with us.
Option 2 – The free Will kit that’s just terrible.
Anybody can create a website. You can do one yourself in 10 minutes using Weebly, or Wix. You can then offer a downloadable document. Free of charge. You can create a blank Will kit as a Word document or a PDF and offer it as a “free Will kit”. The problem is that these are the kits that give “writing your own Will” a bad name.
(This is a genuine Will kit, not a free one, we paid $25 for this)
These are almost impossible to complete correctly. It would be difficult for somebody with a law degree to write clauses describing Executor powers starting with a blank sheet of paper.
The clauses at LegalWills.ca
One of our clauses for example that confers a power to the Executor states
I AUTHORIZE my Trustee to sell, partition, exchange or otherwise dispose of the whole or any part of my real property, in such manner at such time and upon such terms as to credit or otherwise as he or she in his or her discretion considers advisable, with power to accept purchase money, mortgage or mortgages for any part of the purchase or exchange price.
My Trustee shall also have the power to mortgage, lease for any term the real or leasehold property forming part of my estate, subject to such covenants and conditions as he or she shall think fit, to accept surrenders of leases and tenancies, to expend money in repairs, alterations, rebuilding and improvements and generally to manage any such property.
My Trustee shall also have the right to renew and keep renewed any mortgage or mortgages upon any real estate forming part of my estate or any part thereof, to borrow money on any such real estate upon the security of any mortgage or mortgages and to pay off any mortgage or mortgages which may be in existence at any time forming part of my estate. I also give to my Trustee power to execute and deliver such deeds, mortgages, leases or other instruments as may be necessary to effect such a sale, mortgage, lease or other disposition. The power of sale herein is discretionary and not mandatory.”
It is a critically important clause, and one that would be missing from any free Will kit,
There are other classic errors you can make with this type of free Will kit.
1. Attempting to list all of your assets in your Will
You do not have to list everything you own in your Will. Your Will is almost certainly not going to come into effect today. Chances are, it will be many years into the future, and between now and then, your assets will change. You do not want to have to update your Will every time you buy or sell something. You should not list your assets in your Will.
2. Creating conditional bequests
It can be tempting to inadvertently create a conditional bequest. Something like
“I leave $5,000 to my son James as long as he graduates from University”
The problem with this bequest is that it doesn’t have a deadline. James may graduate from University when he’s 70 years old. Which means that nothing can happen to this particular $5,000 for decades. The only day that we can be certain that James never graduates will be on the day he dies.
3. Not handling alternate situations.
This is the most common mistake in a free Will kit. It’s relatively easy to describe a plan for the distribution of your estate. But the challenge comes with the “what if” scenarios. What if your family are all involved in a common accident? Or if your child pre-deceases you? How do you distribute your estate if your spouse is not the biological parent of your children? What if your Executor develops dementia?
Even if your situation is straightforward, these blank form free Will kits very quickly become inadequate.
Option 3 – The free Will kit that generates other revenues
If you have found a website that looks professional. A service that appears to have lawyers on the team, they have a strong social media presence, and they offer phone and email support, and the service is free. It almost seems too good to be true.
In fact it is. There is one other option for providing a free Will kit – the selling of data.
Just like Facebook sells your information to advertisers, a new breed of free Will services is cropping up. But they have partnerships with funeral homes, financial advisors and insurance companies.The information that you enter into their service is a gold mine and a few weeks later you may find advertising for pre-paid funeral homes appearing online, or worse, through your door.
The advertisers know that you are taking some responsible financial steps in preparing your estate plan. They may even know that you have certain accounts if you have included these in your Will. They certainly know that you have children, and the ages of these children.
Your information will be sold to these service providers. If you are not paying for the service, you become the product.
Why does it cost $39.95 to prepare a Will with LegalWills.ca?
How did we arrive at our price for our Wills service?
We have infrastructure costs; website development and hosting. We now have over 100,000 active accounts on our system. These people can all login to their account and update their Will at any time. Along with the server hosting, we have security and encryption licenses to pay.
We have a legal team that review new services, and a development team that implement these services. For example, recently we added the support for blended family trusts so that you can create a lifetime interest in your estate for your spouse if they are not the biological parent of your children. Legal reviews are expensive!
Our services must keep paces with law changes. In BC the Representation Agreement Act underwent a complete overhaul a couple of years ago. If you create a Power of Attorney for British Columbia using a service that hasn’t seen an update for a few years. Your document will be useless.
We have a variety of professional and insurance fees to pay. We have full liability insurance (we have never had to draw upon it, but it makes us feel better to have it).
In addition we have our awesome support team, answering phone and email questions all day. This team is all based in Ottawa, and have all been with LegalWills.ca for over a decade. We treat all of our team members with respect and consequently have a very experienced, hardworking group. They can answer your questions while drawing upon decades of experience. Our Google reviews suggest that this is a winning formula.
There are some things worth buying from the dollar store. Your Last Will and Testament is not one of them. Start writing your Will now, and you will have it in your hands 20 minutes.
Tim Hewson is one of the founders of LegalWills.ca.
He has over 20 years of experience helping people to write their Will and other estate planning documents. He has been interviewed by many of the major news media outlets including CTV, Global News, The Toronto Star, and other leading Canadian publications. He has also contributed to a number of financial planning books.
Throughout his career, Tim has written extensively on the subject of Will writing and estate planning.
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