Online Wills have been growing rapidly in Canada over the past 5 years, and have recently seen a huge surge from the COVID-19 pandemic due to the convenience and the added urgency for Canadians to update their estate plans. By 2030, it’s even predicted that the majority of Wills will be created online, and as they continue to grow, it’s important to know what type of Will is best suited for you. We get lots of questions about where and when online Wills make sense for individuals and couples, so here’s our guide to the cases where online Wills can suit estate planning needs, as well as the limitations.
Generally speaking, a Will is an extremely important document to have, since it ensures the protection of loved ones in the case of your sudden passing. When looking to create a Will though, there are a few important considerations to ensure that it’s the right Will for you.
When should I not use an online Will service or app?
While online Wills are designed to suit the majority of people, this is because the majority of Canadians have simple estate planning requirements. A few examples of when a lawyer is needed for more advanced drafting and legal advisory are in the following three cases:
Complex Blended Families: Step-families are either categorized as “simple” or “complex”. While simple scenarios consist of families where all children are from previous marriages, more complex situations for inheritances arise when there are children from multiple marriages. Since laws around this subject may vary depending on the province, advisory from a lawyer is always recommended.
Disabled Children or Dependents: In this case, ensuring that dependents of those creating the Will are cared for is of the highest importance. This is why Henson Trusts exist to protect disabled persons in these scenarios, but since every family varies in the level of care their children may require, having a unique plan is always recommended.
Custom Inheritance Plans: This only happens when individuals or couples impose conditions on inheritance plans. For example, if a couple wanted their daughter to inherit their estate under the condition that she graduated from university, they would not be able to add it through an online Will.
When can I use an online Will or app?
As long as you don’t fall into any of the categories above, you should be able to create a Will online and feel confident that your estate is in order and your loved ones are protected. While the term “simple estate” is inclusive of all types of socioeconomic, cultural, and marital status, individuals and couples can use online Wills to save extensively on both their time and money to ensure their estate planning goals are met.
Since there is a lot of inertia around creating Wills generally due to the perceived cost and complexity of the process, the result is that about 51% of Canadians do not have a Will. Where online Wills can step in to help here is to address the convenience and cost issues.
For example, many people have jobs where taking time off during the work day is very difficult, which may prevent them from getting around to creating or updating their Will. Add in young kids to the equation, and it can be very hard for the parents to maintain an up-to-date estate plan. An additional consideration that’s seen a lot in Canada is geographic location, since many people living in rural communities may need to travel hours to visit a lawyer.
If you do already have a previous Will, your new Will will revoke all past Wills since you can only have one living Will. This holds true regardless of whether the previous Will was drafted with a lawyer or online service.
One last very important piece to note is that regardless of whether you use an online service or lawyer for your Will, the conversations you have with your loved ones about your estate intentions are just as important. Simply assigning these roles to your loved ones does not mean that all questions about your estate and inheritance plans have been answered, especially by the beneficiaries of your estate. While online Wills can help individuals and couples who feel uncomfortable in conversations involving death, it’s always recommended to bridge these conversations with executors, guardians, and beneficiaries of your estate.
If you’d like to read more about the importance of sharing intentions with family members and charities, you can read more in our previous post with estate planning expert, Mallory McGrath.