Do-it-yourself wills are fraught with long-term risks for families

While will kits may seem cheap, the consequences for loved ones can be costly

Whether it is through the Internet or a big-box store, do-it-yourself wills are becoming increasingly popular for many Canadians. According to Yahoo Canada Finance, the biggest selling point for DIY wills is that they tend to be cheaper than having a will drafted with the assistance of a lawyer. However, by saving a bit of money today, many people end up subjecting their descendants to significant and often costly risks in the future. While DIY wills are becoming popular, the legal and financial risks associated with them are still not widely understood by the general public.

DIY wills

Recent surveys have shown that more than half of all Canadians do not have wills. The two biggest reasons for not having a will are fears about costs and confusion about how to draft a will As a result, it should come as no surprise that DIY wills, such as will kits sold in stores or wills offered online, are becoming more popular, especially given that many of these wills cost less than $100.

The ubiquity of such wills may lead many people to conclude that DIY wills have been "tried and tested" and therefore carry few risks, especially when one's wishes appear relatively straightforward. However, both legal and financial experts tend to strongly caution against DIY wills for a variety of reasons, including potential increased costs for descendants and a higher likelihood that a DIY will could be challenged in court.

Some of the risks in British Columbia

One of the biggest problems with DIY wills is that they often fail to take into account the fact that estate laws vary widely across different provinces. This point is especially pertinent to British Columbia residents where the Wills, Estate and Succession Act (WESA) has created a legal situation that differs substantially from that found in other provinces. As CBC News notes, B.C. is "the wild west" of estate law given that wills can often be more easily challenged here than in other provinces. Many DIY wills fail to take into account the many unique aspects of B.C. estate law.

Furthermore, experts note that a will is only one aspect of a much larger estate plan. Many DIY wills fail to address how important financial accounts - such as TFSAs, RRSPs, pensions and insurance policies - are to be handled after a person's passing. Such accounts are subject to different inheritance and tax laws, meaning that they can often slip through the cracks of a DIY will.

Legal advice

Ensuring that one's estate is handled properly requires the advice of a qualified wills and estate planning lawyer. Unlike with a DIY will, a qualified lawyer can give anybody who has questions or concerns about their own will guidance and peace of mind that can only come from years of legal experience.