The Dangers of 'Do-It-Yourself' Law - Part I

We get an increasing number of calls about 'Do It Yourself' kits for Wills or Separation Agreements. There is a lot of confusion about the legalities of these products. In this week's blog segment we give you our perspective on Will kits.

 THE WILL KIT

There are a number of possible problems or issues to be mindful of with the ‘Will kits’ that can be found in stores. The first is proper execution. We have seen our fair share of Wills prepared from a kit that were not properly signed or witnessed, rendering the 'Will' invalid. For a Testator trying to save money by purchasing a kit, they may find that improper signing or witnessing may completely defeat the purpose.

We have also seen kit Wills that were simply not filled out correctly. The deceased left the 'Will' in a safe place, intending their estate trustee to find it and follow their instructions. Upon death, the 'Will' was found, but the disposition sections were incomplete, meaning that no beneficiaries were designated and no gifts were declared to anyone. Some kits don’t even refer to the laws of the Province of Ontario.

The purpose of meeting with a lawyer to prepare and properly execute a Will is to ensure that your specific needs and concerns are being met, as no two cases are ever the same – something that standardized kits and templates cannot accommodate very well.

Our lawyers ensure that you have capacity, are not under influence from a family member or another person and that your intentions are accurately reflected in your Last Will. We can also prepare up-to-date Powers of Attorney for Personal Care and Property, to ensure that you and your possessions are being looked after in the event you become incapable and cannot make decisions for yourself.

There are many concerns that a kit may not take into account. If you plan to appoint more than one Estate Trustee or Attorney, will they have to act together (jointly), or can any of them act separately (Jointly and Severally)? Most clients don’t think about that when they come to see us. What about compensation for the people acting for you?

A Will is a relatively inexpensive document to complete, and should be drafted specifically to each person’s needs and wishes. After all, once you need it, it will be too late for you to change it.

If you have questions about Wills or Powers of Attorney, please feel free to contact us.

NEXT WEEK

Next time in Part II, we will consider some of the risks of 'home-made' Separation Agreements and problems we have seen.