When I tell people I’m a Wills & Estates lawyer, the most common response I receive is something along the lines of “I need to get my Will done one of these days, I’ve been putting it off for years.” Similarly, many of my Wills clients sheepishly admit that they’ve procrastinated writing their Will for ages, and are finally getting around to it after years of having the best intentions of getting it done.
“I need to get my Will done one of these days, I’ve been putting it off for years.”
Routinely, people put off getting a Will until they have a big trip planned, have children, buy a house, or, sadly, experience the death of a loved one or family member.
So, why do people put off getting a Will? Here are the Top 10 reasons I encounter:
1. I Don’t Have Anything
Wills aren’t just about assets. Yes, asset distribution is a huge part of Estate Planning and an important part of your Will, but Wills also cover other essential matters. For example, who will act as the guardian of your children if you pass away? What will happen to your pets? Or, who will act as your Estate’s Executor?
You may not have any assets for your Executor to distribute, but it’s helpful to appoint someone who will be responsible for settling your debts, filing your final tax returns, and arranging your funeral. Appointing someone to fulfill these obligations reduces the potential for conflict and stress among family members and loved ones should something to happen to you.
Finally, even though you may think you don’t have anything when you check your bank account balance, you probably do have some possessions of some kind. Whether it’s a car, a personal collection, or a family heirloom, you’d likely prefer to decide who those items will go to, rather than allowing them to end up at an estate sale.
2. It’s Too Expensive
There is definitely an upfront, fixed cost to a well-drafted, lawyer-prepared Will. We recognize that this cost may truly be prohibitive to some people, however, at West Legal, all of our Will Packages are based on a flat-rate fee structure so that there are no hidden or unforeseen costs to our clients. Additionally, we try to keep our rates competitive with other law firms in Calgary, and we pride ourselves on offering value-added service beyond the documents themselves.
Each flat-rate fee Will Package includes a 1-hour initial consultation, as well as telephone and email correspondence with clients to ensure that the draft documents match their intentions. We also spend time going through the documents face-to-face with clients at their signing appointment to ensure that they have a full understanding of their Estate plan.
At the end of the day, a well-drafted Will is worth the up-front cost. It’s helpful to think of a Will as a form of insurance. We’re all hopeful that we won’t need to use our car insurance anytime soon, but we still pay the monthly premiums because they offer us peace-of-mind and protection from the unexpected.
It’s also worth considering that the costs of a probate application or of defending against Estate litigation far outweigh the cost of a Will. Lawyer-facilitated Estate planning is an important first step in protecting against an unnecessary probate application or potential Estate litigation.
Lastly, if you’re a low-income individual or experiencing financial hardship, and truly can’t afford the cost of a lawyer-drafted Will, you can draft your own Will called a ‘holograph Will’. While a holograph Will doesn’t offer the same level of detail and peace-of-mind as a lawyer-drafted Will, it beats not having a Will in place at all. If your circumstances change down the road, you can visit a Wills & Estates lawyer for a formal Will, but at least you’ll have something in place in the meantime.
3. I Don’t Have Time
Our lives are busier now than ever before. We live in a fast-paced society that values productivity and most of us don’t have much time left at the end of the day. That said, it’s unlikely that your life will get any less busy in a month, a year, or even 5 years from now.
Having an up-to-date, valid Will in place is important enough that you should make time for it. At West Legal, we recognize that our clients lead busy lives and that their time is valuable, so we’ve worked hard to streamline the Estate planning process. When drafting your Will Package, we only ask for, at most, 3 hours of your time: 1 hour for our initial consultation, 1 hour for you to read over your draft documents, and 1 hour for a signing appointment. It may seem daunting, but if you can manage to find an extra 3 hours in your schedule, it’s worth getting your Will done sooner, rather than later.
4. My Spouse Gets My Estate, Anyways. Right?!
Married individuals sometimes justify not getting a Will by assuming that their entire Estate will go to their spouse if they die without leaving a Will. Oftentimes, a surviving spouse is entitled to the entirety of their deceased spouse`s Estate, regardless of whether or not the deceased spouse left a valid Will. However, there are many situations, including blended families, separated spouses, and dependent children that may create additional entitlements to your Estate and prevent your spouse from receiving the full value of the Estate, unless a valid Will is in place.
Even if your spouse is legally entitled to your entire Estate, the Estate administration process is often more difficult and expensive if you pass away without leaving a Will.
5. I’m Too Young for a Will
If you’re young and in good health, it may be difficult to see why you need a Will now. It’s tough to think about death and make major future decisions when you’re in the prime of your life. Nevertheless, if you’re at least 18 years old, it’s important to have a Will drafted now, even if you might not think you need one.
No one likes to think about it, but the unexpected can happen. When someone passes away unexpectedly without leaving a Will, it places additional burdens on loved ones during an already difficult time.
It’s also worth considering that you can (and should) update your Will over time, and that law firms typically charge far less for updates than they do for the initial documents. As you attain important milestones in your life such as marriage, homeownership, parenthood, or starting a business, having a Will in place that can be updated and “grow with you” is a wise approach.
If you fall into the camp of procrastination when it comes to writing your Will, don’t beat yourself up! You’re not alone. However, we hope we’ve convinced you that it’s time to stop putting it off and book a Wills consultation! If you’re still not quite convinced, stay tuned for Part II of “The Top 10 Reasons People Put Off Getting a Will”.
6. I’m planning to have more children and I don’t want to update my will a year from now
Couples often meet with a Wills & Estates lawyer after having their first child, and rightfully so. However, I also meet couples who are “waiting” until they have subsequent children to get their Wills done.
Couples who put off their Wills, for this reason, are actually on the right track in the sense that they’ve brought to mind the importance of including dependent children in a well thought out Estate plan. It goes without saying that our children are likely the most important aspect of our lives, and one should carefully consider beneficiary and guardianship designations with respect to dependent children.
That said, the Wills and Estates lawyers at West Legal are able to creatively draft your Will to ensure that it contemplates future children in the event that you’re unable to update your Will immediately upon adding a new member to the family.
It’s also worth noting that the cost of updating an existing Will is significantly lower than the cost of having a new Will drafted, should you wish to make changes to your Will after having a second or third child.
7. I Don’t Know Who to Appoint as my Executor
Sometimes it’s “paralysis by analysis”, and other times people simply don’t know anyone who is willing, capable, or trustworthy enough to act as their Executor. As a result, they may feel reluctant to draft a Will, or worse yet, embarrassed that they don’t know anyone who’s suitable.
In reality, being unsure of who you’ll appoint as your Executor is actually a very good reason to meet with a Wills & Estates lawyer. At West Legal, we routinely meet with Wills clients who aren’t quite sure who they’ll appoint as their Executor. We’re always happy to discuss their options with them and guide them through the important considerations that go into choosing an Executor. We’re also able to point clients in the direction of trust companies if appointing an individual Executor isn’t practical or desirable.
8. I Don’t Want to Think About Dying
Frankly, most of us don’t want to think about dying any more than we absolutely have to. However, until someone discovers an immortality serum, it’s part of being human. Besides, living forever might get kind of boring anyways!
If you’re not convinced, it’s worth considering that a few hours spent on an Estate Plan and a Will Package actually reduces the amount of time both you and your loved ones will have to spend thinking about death.
While it may be tough to think about death now, at the end of the day, our families and our well-being are what matter the most to us. Having a well-drafted Will in place allows you to rest assured that your assets will distributed in accordance with your intentions and that your children and spouse will be provided for. A Will also reduces the potential for stress, conflict, and unnecessary hassle for loved ones during an already difficult time.
9. I’ve Been Meaning to Get it Done
We’ve all been there. That messy closet in the house we’ve been meaning to organize for years, but never get around to, or that dental exam we’ve been putting off because, hey, who wants to go to the dentist? Going to the lawyer’s office for a Wills consultation may not be the most inviting prospect either, but putting something off for weeks or months often turns into years, and before you know it you’ve been meaning to get your Will done for 20 years.
While it may be tempting to procrastinate, putting off your Will isn’t worth it. Life is hectic for most of us, but the unexpected and unforeseen can happen, and it’s important that you don’t delay getting a Will—both for your own peace-of-mind, and for the sake of your loved ones.
10. It’s Too Complicated
A potentially complicated Estate plan is one of the best reasons to meet with a Wills & Estates lawyer. After drafting hundreds, if not thousands of Wills, the lawyers at West Legal are comfortable advising you regarding your Estate plan, however complicated your circumstances may seem. Once you’ve spoken with us, you may even find that things aren’t quite as complicated as you initially thought.
If you’ve delayed getting a Will, you’re not alone. West Legal specializes in Estate Planning and would welcome an opportunity to draft your Will and help you develop your own personalized Estate plan.