Do I really need a Will?
While there’s no law requiring you to have a Will, we believe that everyone over the age of 18 should have a well-drafted Will in place, regardless of their net worth, age, background, health, or demographic. In some respects, a Will is like an insurance policy. We may pay our monthly home or auto insurance premiums begrudgingly, but when our property has been damaged, or we’ve been injured in an accident, we’re certainly grateful that we have insurance in place.
Like an insurance policy, Wills involve a sunk, up-front cost, but once they’re in place, they offer peace-of-mind, and may someday save your loved ones from stress, lengthy court applications, family disputes, and financial burdens. Typically, the legal fees associated with administering an intestate estate (an estate of someone who dies without a Will) far exceed the original cost of a well-drafted Will.
Can I draft my own Will?
Yes. In Alberta, “holograph Wills” are still recognized by the Courts. Among other requirements, holograph Wills must be in the testator’s (the person “giving” the Will) own handwriting and must be signed by the testator, alone, and without the signatures of witnesses. Nevertheless, many things can go wrong with a holograph Will, and a holograph Will is never recommended except in circumstances of extreme emergency.
Rather than draft your own Will, it’s recommended that you seek a lawyer to do so. A reputable Wills and estates lawyer will consider the implications of outside challenges to your will upon your death. Wills are typically challenged on the basis that the testator lacked capacity or that the Will was drafted under undue influence and therefore doesn’t represent the true intentions of the testator. By visiting a lawyer, you minimize the risk of these challenges because your lawyer will consider your apparent mental capacity at the time you provide your Will instructions. Your lawyer will also ensure that no one who could potentially influence you is present in the room when the Will is signed.
While holograph Wills are an option, they don’t come with the clarity and peace-of-mind that an experienced Wills and estates lawyer provides.
What’s wrong with a Will Kit?
When considering a Will Kit, it’s worth recalling the old adage, “be careful not to be penny-wise, and pound-foolish”. A “Will Kit” is a fill-in-the-blank type document template that can be obtained from registry offices, bookstores, and other locations. The up-front cost of a Will Kit is usually a fraction of the price of a professional, lawyer-drafted Will package, however, the long term costs of Will-Kits often far exceed the initial cost savings. When considering a Will Kit, keep in mind that you are foregoing the professional, estate planning advice offered by an experienced Wills and estates lawyer.
Additionally, Will Kits sold in Alberta may be based on U.S. laws, or neglect important details that render the Will invalid according to Alberta legislation. We have seen circumstances where, for example, a Will Kit failed to provide a space for the witnesses to print their names below their signatures, so, while the Will was valid in many respects, the witnesses couldn’t be tracked down to sign an “Affidavit of Execution”, an important document which we include with every Will we draft.
Why don’t you keep my Original Will?
Clients often ask why we don’t store their original, last Will. The primary reason we don’t retain original client Wills is that we draft hundreds of Wills each year, and if something ever happened to our office, such as a fire or a flood, we would risk having thousands of clients lose their Wills. Whereas, if you retain your own original Will and something happens to it, we can easily replace your Will. We do keep a photocopy of your Will on file along with an electronic version of the Will on our secure server, which can be printed and re-signed in the event that your Will is lost, stolen, or destroyed.
What happens if I want to change my Will in the future?
If you have a Will in place, but wish to make changes to it, we’ll meet with you for a free-of-charge consultation to determine whether it’s best for you to draft a new Will altogether, or simply update your existing Will via Codicil. A Codicil is an attachment to your Will which replaces the language in one or more paragraphs with language that reflects your updated intentions. If West Legal drafted your current Will, we will likely update your existing Will for our posted Codicil price, rather than attach a Codicil to your existing West Legal Will.