The law pertaining to Wills has been in place for almost 200 years. Over that time, very little has changed in the requirements to create a legal Last Will and Testament. The law has always stated that a Will must be written on paper and signed in ink in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign the document in ink in the presence of each other. But over the last 20 years we have seen the emergence of online Will services, Digital Wills, and Electronic Wills. The definitions of these modern Wills have been evolving, and cause a great deal of confusion. In this article we would like to explain the differences between these documents.
An Online Will
A document written by an online Will writing service, but then downloaded and printed to be signed in the presence of two witnesses. It’s a Will writing service offered online. There isn’t really such a thing as an Online Will, other than the Electronic Will described below.
A Digital Will
A document that describes the handling of your digital assets, including those of financial value and those of sentimental value. These can range from social media accounts to cryptocurrencies. This is described outside of your traditional Last Will and Testament, and usually appoints somebody to manage this activity (i.e. your “Digital Executor”).
An Electronic Will
A document that is signed electronically by yourself and by your two witnesses. The signing is usually completed remotely via video link, and the document can then be stored electronically in the cloud. At the time of writing, British Columbia is the only Province that legally accepts an electronically signed and stored Will.
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Completing your Will is an important step, but it is not the only thing that needs to be done to get your affairs in order. Working through the suggestions below will not only help you organize all of your assets, but will also ensure a smooth process for your surviving loved ones.
Store Your Will and Be Sure That Your Executor Knows Where it is Stored
Once you have signed your Will in the presence of two witnesses, who in turn sign the document, it is a legal Last Will and Testament. At this point, you simply need to store the document in a place that is known and accessible to your Executor.
Your Executor is the only person who needs access to the Will. You do not need to share the document with your beneficiaries or family members. Some people simply give the Will to their Executor (or alternate Executor) for safe keeping in a sealed envelope.
There is no requirement to store the Will with any particular registry, and there is no requirement to register the document with any court or government department (this is done after you have died).
Your Will is a document that can be updated throughout your lifetime. Any time you make a change to your Will, you should sign the new document in the presence of witnesses. Ideally, any older Will should be destroyed, although this is not a requirement. Your most recently signed and dated Will is your “Last” Will and Testament and the only one that is active (assuming that it meets the legal requirements for a Will).
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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 simple Will would cost $600 and take two or three visits to a lawyer. These visits would have to be coordinated 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 no 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.
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
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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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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.
In this article, we will take a quick look at just eleven 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 Financial Power of Attorney appoints somebody to take care of your financial affairs while you are alive, but usually after you have lost capacity.
This document should not be confused with either a Last Will and Testament (or simply a “Will”) or a Living Will.
A Last Will and Testament makes key appointments and describes the distribution of your estate after you have died.
A Living Will is a document that is also in effect while you are alive, but deals only with your health condition and medical treatment. It usually combines the naming of a Healthcare Proxy with an expression of the type of treatment you wish to receive through an Advance Directive.
Together, these three documents make up a complete Estate Plan in Canada.
What types of Power of Attorney are there?
The first classification is the Power of Attorney that directs your medical needs; a Healthcare Power of Attorney. Also known as a Healthcare proxy. In this document, you name a person to make medical decisions on your behalf. Most people when they talk about a Power of Attorney are not meaning a Healthcare document.
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Introduction to Preparing a Will
Everybody should have a Will. Not making a Will is unfair to those you leave behind. Even if your plans for estate distribution are simple and you do not have many assets, it is still much easier for the people that you leave behind to work with a Will than to resolve the estate of a person who has died intestate (without a Will). If you do not feel that you have significant assets now, remember that your Will only comes into effect when you die, not now, and you cannot possibly predict how large your estate will be when your Will is required. Preparing a Will is one of the most important tasks you can undertake if you have loved ones. Sadly, most of us put it off until it is too late.
By law, any competent adult can make their own legal Will; the law does not require you to have an attorney or a lawyer, to do this. A Will does not need to be a complicated document; it simply has to clearly state your wishes for the distribution of your estate.
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What is the purpose of a Will?
Your Last Will and Testament allows you to speak after you have passed away. It does absolutely nothing and has no powers whatsoever all the time you are alive. But as soon as you die your Will has two key functions: it allows you to make key appointments and it allows you to describe the distribution of your assets. These assets include money, possessions, houses, investments, everything that you own. Making a Will is one of the most important responsibilities of every adult, and it should not be put off until a distant day in the future when you are “old”.
You should not think of making a Will as a once-in-a-lifetime event. You should always have a Will in place that reflects your current situation. You should write your first Will as soon as you are an adult, and then update it throughout your life as your circumstances change.
Your Key Appointments
By Making a Will you can make two key appointments.
This is the person you entrust to carry out the instructions in your Will. They have the responsibility to arrange your funeral, gather and secure your assets, and then distribute them according to the instructions in the Will. It is a very important appointment. Continue reading →
It is that time of year again. The time when we all make New Year’s Resolutions for things that we know we really ought to do, but never quite get around to. We all know the popular ones. Go to the gym, lose weight, spend more time with our family. However, there is one New Year’s Resolution that we should all make sure that we keep. Have you made a Will? We should prioritize “making a Will“. Before you head to the gym and pay to join again, make sure that you protect your family and loved ones by writing a Will.
So many people do not make a Will, but really there is no excuse not to. It is one of the most important things that you should do to make sure that your family and friends are provided for in the event of your death. Continue reading →
Wondering whether our service is right for you? considering using an estate planning lawyer?
We know that 62 percent of Canadians don’t have a Will in place. A further 12 percent have a Will, but it’s out of date.
Even with that harrowing stat, the legal community still try to warn people against preparing their own Will. Claiming that you can only obtain a quality Last Will and Testament from an estate planning lawyer. Any approach to writing your own Will is going to result in pain for your family and loved ones.
In truth, there was some merit in this argument about 20 years ago when the only do-it-yourself Will writing options were a blank piece of paper, or a blank form Will kit. Both approaches are a disaster waiting to happen, and many estates went through protracted legal battles to settle an ambiguous instruction. Or worse, a Will was simply thrown out because it wasn’t signed correctly.
Thankfully in the years since LegalWills.ca came online in 2001, the online interactive Will writing services have come a long way. Much like tax preparation software that faced a similar backlash from tax preparing accountants, the use of online interactive Will writing services has grown year by year.
Online Will writing services have also improved to a point that for 99 percent of people, the final Will document is indistinguishable from a Will created by an estate planning lawyer. We know this because we use the exact same software used by any estate planning lawyer in Canada. We’ve just give you direct access to it.
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As we spend more time online, our social, sentimental, and financial assets have begun to migrate online as well. Collectively, we have come to call these items, your digital assets.
Unfortunately, people all too frequently neglect the digital component when they write a Will. You probably haven’t considered creating a plan for your Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter accounts. Maybe you have recently experienced the loss of a friend and seen first hand the mis-management of online accounts for people who are no longer alive, I know I have. Sadly, three of my ex-colleagues have died, and every year, LinkedIn still prompts me to congratulate them on their work anniversary.
But there is much more to digital assets than your social accounts. Some of these assets simply need to be managed, some need named beneficiaries, and some have real monetary value and should be included as part of your estate.
Your Digital Assets – what are they?
You can divide the three most common forms of digital assets into three categories: social, sentimental, and financial digital assets. You may have a plan for your social assets, but having a comprehensive plan for your sentimental and financial assets is probably more important. Continue reading →
Many of us remember the TV ads for the Canadian Will Kit. It later became the Complete Canadian estate planning kit. It’s been over a decade since those ads ran on TV and Radio, and to this day, we still receive calls from people looking for one.
Unfortunately, these kits became synonymous with “writing your own Will”. The kits were bad, the Wills that they created caused many problems, and so people still think that writing your own Will is a bad idea.
The common criticisms of “boilerplate” Wills like the Canadian Will Kit, and “one-size fits all” kits are still trotted out by lawyers advising people against writing their own Wills. But these criticisms are woefully out of date, and simply no longer apply to online Will services like the one at LegalWills.ca. Continue reading →
First a definition;
A stepfamily or blended family is a family where at least one parent has children, from a previous relationship, that are not genetically related to the other parent. Either one or both parents may have children from a previous relationship. Children from a stepfamily may live with one biological parent, or they may live with each biological parent for a period of time.
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Is it possible to get a will written without a lawyer? What is an online Will?
We saw this question recently posted on Quora and we were a little surprised by the misinformation provided in the answers. They included the tired old analogies to “you wouldn’t remove your own appendix, so you shouldn’t prepare your own Will” (the two tasks are nothing close to comparable), and also a rather surprising answer from a lawyer who claimed “In non-emergency situations, you must get it done through a lawyer.” which is absolute nonsense.
I would like to provide some reasons why it would actually be advantageous to prepare a Will without a lawyer, but first some clarification on the term “online Will”
What is an “online Will” service
There is no such thing as an online Will. A Will has to be printed, signed and witnessed in order to be made legal. Online, scanned or digitized versions of a Will are not legal documents. Any service that offers to store your Will online or in the cloud are misrepresenting what they can do because based on current law in Canada, a copy of a Will stored in the cloud cannot be probated. Our partner website that allows you to write your own Will in the US recently published a blog post explaining this. So when we talk about an online Will service, we are really talking about an Will service that is online. Once you have stepped through the service, the document must be printed, signed and witnessed to be made into a legal Last Will and Testament. Continue reading →