Frequently Asked Questions: Online Wills & Legacy Giving 

by Matt Renzoni in July 9th, 2021
“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.” - Henry Ford 

The landscape of creating Wills is rapidly changing, and nonprofits now stand in a unique position to serve their communities with the growing number of options available. It’s promising to see planned giving professionals in Canada leading the charge to both fight the inertia around creating Wills, and encouraging more of their donors to consider supporting nonprofits through gifts in Wills.

 Educating planned giving teams on how online Wills can provide a service to their donors as well as secure future income for their organization is of the highest importance to us. We speak with charities across the country every day about planned giving and online Wills, and given that the majority of Canadians with up-to-date Wills have created theirs with a lawyer, we’re bound to stir up a lot of questions. 

Although sometimes it may be a bit surprising to us given how familiar we are with online Wills, it’s completely normal to hear from planned giving professionals that may be hesitant to the idea of online Wills. After all, if we too had years of experience connecting with donors and making recommendations for when they see their lawyer, we would likely have the same questions. However, there is a growing need in the industry to keep up with other industries in adapting to a digital world. Just a few months back, the Financial Times published an article on why charities need to embrace digital transformation, and this applies to all avenues of fundraising including planned giving. 

With that being said, after hundreds of meetings with charities over the past year, here are a few commonly asked questions specific to online Wills and legacy giving: 

What happens to a previously drafted Will after a donor creates a new Will online? 

With online Wills, the same rule of revoking previous Wills applies as it would when drafting multiple wills with a lawyer. Unless a codicil is added to an existing Will, then the creation and signing of a new or updated Will with language revoking other Wills and codicils will revoke and supersede all previous versions to ensure that a person has only one living Will. This is the case regardless of moving from a lawyer drafted Will to an online Will and vice-versa.

What’s the advantage of promoting online Wills versus other methods?

Firstly, we don’t believe the two should compete against each other. Digital wills are great for the majority of people with simple estate planning requirements, but they can’t replace legal advice and recommendations from a lawyer. Therefore, the types of donors who go to a lawyer versus draft an online Will likely have more complex requirements. As a rule of thumb, any situation where families may be blended from previous marriages or have advanced trust requirements for children should see a lawyer for Will drafting. 

An additional question we often hear is how to influence donors without showing bias. The goal actually isn’t to influence at all but rather offer a number of resources for how a donor can start the process of completing a Will if they’ve indicated that they intend to leave a gift to the charity. Reducing inertia around creating Wills in general should take the place of any attempt to influence.

The real advantage to promoting online Wills is that it opens up an additional channel for donors to begin the process, and it’s also really convenient given that anyone can do it from the comfort of their home. Our hope is that being able to go through the entire process for free will ensure that fewer Canadians drag their feet on creating a legal Will, while also considering support for causes that are important for them. From there, donors can always determine whether an online Will suits their estate planning needs, and planned giving professionals can help answer questions around their unique needs.

Overall, our recommendation is the more options that are available for donors, the easier it will be for them to start the process.

What types of people are online Wills suitable for? 

Online Wills can serve the majority of people who have simple estate requirements. This can be between 80-90% of the population, but it all comes down to the individual or couple. As mentioned previously, online Wills don’t replace the legal advisory that a lawyer can offer.

Any person with more complex estate requirements, such as blended families creating custom inheritance plans, should seek advice from a lawyer on drafting their Will, since online Wills are built to serve simple estate requirements and don’t have the customized requirements available. The goal with connecting online Wills to planned giving in this capacity is really to encourage more donors to start the process without needing assistance from the charity. The more donors who start the process on their own, the more time the planned giving team will have to spend with those individuals in need of assistance. Think of it as augmenting the time of the planned giving team. 

What happens if someone wants to see a lawyer after creating an online Will? 

Then they should definitely go and see a lawyer! At minimum, they have a much better understanding of their estate planning needs and what works for them. If anyone uses Willfora to create a Will, they can take it into a lawyer to give them a better idea of where they’d like to make changes. Additionally, since the platform is built for legacy giving, we hope that going through the process helps them consider leaving a legacy with one or more causes that are important to them, and that the gift will carry over when they see a lawyer. 

A best practice used by many of our charity partners is linking out to Willfora from their legacy giving page on their website. We always suggest listing Willfora alongside other Will-writing resources, such as sample bequest language, as an additional option for creating Wills. This way, any donors looking for options on how to include the charity in their Wills can have several options available and select what works best for them. They may also get in contact with a charity representative for further assistance. 

Additionally, these charities can link to their Willfora Charity Page wherever it makes sense in their communications calendar, focusing on the prime candidates they want to communicate the offer to. This can be through email marketing, newsletters, magazines, print campaigns, social media, and so on. Since many charities also prioritize larger campaigns such as annual giving, this can even serve as a sidekick to those campaigns for donors looking for additional ways to contribute to the charity without spending any money today.


If your charity wants to superpower legacy giving through a Charity Page, contact us to book a demo.

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