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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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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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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Number of Canadians without Wills significantly under-reported

There appears to be divided opinion on the importance of Wills. There are a group who believe that a Will is a document to be written on one’s deathbed, as a final statement to explain who will receive the family heirlooms. Fortunately, most of us are wiser, and understand that a Will is something that everybody needs, no matter how old, or how wealthy. A Will is a vital part of your financial plan that is written when you are young, and updated throughout your lifetime.

“Fortunately I don’t need a Will yet”

A caller contacting LegalWills.ca on behalf of their mother

But statistics show that what we know about Wills, and what we actually do about Wills are two very different things. I think most of us were shocked to hear that Prince didn’t have a Will, while silently thinking that it’s something that we really need to get to ourselves.

Recent surveys have been quite consistent in putting the number of Canadians without a Will at just over half. A 2013 CIBC survey put the number at “about half”, while a 2012 LawPRO survey claimed that 56% of Canadians did not have a Will in place. Most recently, in 2014 the BC Notaries reported a number of 55% of British Columbians without a Will.

At LegalWills.ca we were interested in not only the number of people without a Will, but also the number of people with out-of-date Wills. This came from a social discussion on Wills that went something like this;

Dave: I do have a Will, but I wrote it a while ago.
Me: you think it may need to be updated?
Dave: Well, I wrote it just after we got married, but before we had the children.
Me: Are you kidding me? your girls are now 24 and 21 years old !! you don’t have a Will. Continue reading

Planned Giving: the state of charitable bequests in Canada

“A note on Privacy: the protection and security of the documents created on our web site are of critical importance. In particular, we cannot access any information contained in a specific Will, nor can we read a person’s Will. However, we are able to access aggregated data from an encrypted database folder that summarizes the number of times particular choices have been made within our service. We cannot connect this information to individual accounts. It is this data that has been mined to provide the information in this post”

At LegalWills.ca we help tens of thousands of Canadians create their Last Will and Testament, probably more than any other organization in Canada. Last year, we started to educate ourselves on the state of “planned giving”, that is, leaving something to charity in your Will. According to the most recent Statistics Canada report, both the amount donated to charities by taxfilers and the number of people reporting charitable donations fell from 2011 to 2012. Donations reported by taxfilers declined 1.9% to $8.3 billion in 2012, while the number of people reporting charitable donations on their 2012 income tax return decreased by 1.4% to 5.6 million. Around 23 percent of all tax filers include a charitable bequest in their tax declarations for any given year.

Although charitable giving may be on the decline, we were interested in the level of “planned giving” that is, the Continue reading