I recently read an article in the National Post citing a 2018 Angus Reid survey which found that only 35% of Canadians have an up-to-date Will, and only 51 percent of Canadians have any sort of Will in place at all. While I’m definitely concerned by these numbers, I can’t say I’m surprised. For various reasons, including the cost involved, many people procrastinate getting a Will or updating their existing Will. However, the benefits of having an up-to-date Will far outweigh the costs, for the following reasons:
1. Wills are more Cost-Effective than the Alternatives
Meeting with a lawyer to finalize your estate plan and to have a Will professionally drafted costs money. While prices vary from law firm to law firm, we strive to offer competitive pricing across the board for our Will Packages. All of our fees are flat rate and posted on our website—there are no hidden disbursements or costs. Flat rate fees or not, we understand that budgeting for a Will can be tough, especially in today’s challenging economy. Nonetheless, engaging in thoughtful estate planning with a Wills & Estates lawyer is a sound financial decision.
Should you pass away without a Will, the Personal Representative of your estate will likely need to apply for a Grant of Administration from the Alberta Courts. This process usually involves significant legal fees as well as a court filing fee.
However, even if you die leaving a Will, your estate may need to apply for a Grant of Probate from the Courts. The greatest cost-saving offered by a valid, up-to-date Will is that it clarifies your intentions with respect to who will act as the Personal Representative of your estate and with respect to who will inherit your assets. Additionally, a well-drafted Will should include a contingency plan in the event that one or more of your Personal Representatives and/or beneficiaries passes away. It should also stipulate at what ages your minor beneficiaries are to receive their shares of the estate, and your Will may also include instructions regarding organ donation and disposition of remains.
If you pass away without a Will, family, friends, relatives, and the estate itself may incur significant expense making court applications to resolve any number of matters, including, who is entitled to act as Personal Representative of the estate, who is entitled, as a beneficiary of the estate, to receive funds, and how much, and other disputes that could be avoided by having a Will in place. At the end of the day, conflicted estates enrich lawyers at the expense of the total value of the estate, and the legal fees involved in settling a disputed estate usually far outweigh the cost of having a lawyer prepare a Will for you.
2. A Well-Drafted Will Reduces the Risk of Conflict between Loved Ones
The death of a loved one is a time of grief and mourning. The tension and stress that naturally arise from loss can lead to conflict between family members. Leaving a valid, up-to-date Will takes the decision-making weight off of your loved ones during a difficult time and allows them to grieve without the added burden of tension and conflict that may arise from discussions about unsettled estate matters.
3. Estate Planning is more than Just “Having a Will”
At West Legal, our team of Wills & Estates lawyers believes that Estate planning is a holistic process. As part of our Will packages, one of our lawyers will meet with you face-to-face for a one-hour consultation to discuss aspects of your estate that you may not have considered and to address any questions that you may have. Our lawyers also pride themselves on being available to answer client emails and phone calls promptly throughout the estate planning process.
We also recognize the importance of effective financial planning as part of the estate planning process. We offer you the option to have us forward draft and/or finalized copies of your Wills to your financial planner, or, if you don’t yet have a financial planner, we are able to refer you to qualified professionals in the field.
Finally, we are able to assist clients with creative planning that may help their estate avoid a costly probate application. At West Legal, we take a balanced approach to estate planning. Our lawyers don’t advocate probate avoidance at all costs, but rather we take into account the individual circumstances of each client to help ensure that they have a rational, cost-effective estate plan in place that offers peace of mind.
If you are among the 65% of Canadians who don’t have an up-to-date Will, we invite you to reach out to the qualified and experienced Wills & Estates lawyers at West Legal for a free, no-obligation consultation.