Is an online will better than no will?

Almost always, having any Will is better than no Will because it gives you a say. But the Will still needs to match your intentions and be signed properly.

Keep in mind that without a Will, the intestacy laws of Ontario govern who gets your estate and who gets to apply to court to be the administrator (estate trustee). You have no say at all.

Will kits and online Wills can work and be valid, but I have yet to see an online or do-it-yourself Will that didn’t have a problem. These mistakes include gifts given multiple times, blanks not properly filled in, assets incorrectly identified, no “residue” clause, beneficiary designations overlooked, etc.

I even saw a Will for someone after they had died that was only signed by one witness, meaning it wasn’t a valid Will in Ontario, so they effectively died thinking they had a Will, but did not actually have one. It was a terrible shock to their family.

An estate will likely have to pay more to hire a lawyer to deal with all these errors and it will usually cost more than if they had hired a lawyer to prepare it properly at the outset.

Perhaps the most common oversight with do-it-yourself Wills is not having one of the witnesses swear an affidavit at the time the Will is signed. This is hard to do without a lawyer and is often overlooked. That affidavit is required to get probate in Ontario. So years later when the person does pass away, those witnesses are going to have to be tracked down and visited by a lawyer (possibly at great expense) or further legal work will have to be done to prove the Will. Again, the cost is likely to be greater than paying a lawyer to do it properly the first time.

So this year please make it a resolution to get a Will, any Will (but preferably one prepared by a lawyer). There are lawyers out there in all different price points, so I’m sure you can find one that will work for you.

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