Review of DIY Formal Will Products
I’m a Toronto lawyer. I’m also the founder / president of Dynamic Legal Forms Ltd., which sells the most do-it-yourself formal Wills in Canada through our proprietary Will-O-Matic system. We have also expanded to Australia and the UK.
What is a DIY Formal Will?
A formal Will is a written Will signed by the the Will maker in the presence of two appropriate witnesses. The witnesses should be adults with full mental capabilities and should be independent (i.e. not receiving any benefit under the Will or the spouse or partner of anyone who is receiving any benefit under the Will). A formal Will can be distinguished from a holograph Will, which is entirely hand-written by the Will Maker and which does not need to be witnessed (note: Holograph Wills may not be allowed in certain provinces). A formal Will is also generally distinguished from a privileged Will, which is a Will that can be oral or written and which is provided by someone who is generally in actual military service.
What is a DIY Formal Will Product?
A DIY formal Will product is a kit that you can buy in the bookstore or online that allows you to create your own formal Will. This may be a paper kit that you simply write on (using a pen), a customizable word document that you can print out and sign in front of appropriate witnesses, or a fully automated online system (like our Will-O-Matic system) that allows you to generate a custom-tailored .pdf Will.
What to look for in DIY Formal Will Products
Now, if you’re reading this, it may be because you’re looking to get your Will done and you know very little or nothing about DIY formal Will products. You see something at the bookstore or online and you think “Is this right for me?” and “What should I be looking for in a DIY formal Will product?” That’s where we can help you. We not only provide you with an ABUNDANCE of education about Wills laws in Canada and your province, but we have developed a proprietary system that makes it easy for you to create your own formal Will – namely, by using our Will-O-Matic system.
Do-It-Yourself Formal Will Products
Personally, I find it shocking that those without sufficient knowledge – including lawyers and non-lawyers who prepare Wills for a living – are offering formal Will writing products or services. This kits may be doing more harm than good. Case in point, there are lots of ways in which these “do it yourself” formal Will kits can be invalid – even if you think they are valid! This means that, if they are invalid, when you die, there may be a court action to determine how your assets should be distributed – and this may not be in accordance with your wishes or in the most tax-advantageous manner.
And here, I’m talking about the types of things that other DIY products (like the kinds you find in Staples or online) can be faulted for:
- There are no warnings as to who should be using their product. But this type of product should not be used by those who are mentally incapacitated, are being unduly pressured, who have complex estates, who have international property, who have blended families, who believe there may be infighting amongst loved ones when you die, etc. In these circumstances, the Will can be challenged.
- In many provinces, if you have a Will and then get married, your Will is automatically revoked unless your Will says otherwise (not accounted for in many DIY formal Will products).
- Some options are too rigid, too simplistic, or outright missing (e.g. specific types of gifts that can be made, compensation for the executor and trustee, gifts to the executor and trustee, debt forgiveness, alternative dispute resolution, additional clauses, definitions, etc.).
- There’s no education or warnings – for example, of who can be an appropriate witness (generally, gifts to beneficiaries or their spouses are void if they also act as a witness), what happens if your selected beneficiary predeceases you, or what types of things you cannot do in your Will (e.g. you cannot gift an interest in real estate which is owned by you jointly with someone else because of the right of survivorship; if you do so, that gift will fail and the disappointed beneficiary may have grounds to sue), or how to execute the Will properly to make sure it is valid.
- It doesn’t take into consideration the nuances of provincial Wills laws (which may cause confusion). For example, a “Tutor” in Quebec is called a “Custodian of minor Children and Guardian of their property” in Ontario, but the Will Kit may simply refer to this person as a “Guardian” which is not the correct title.
- You cannot edit your Will for free if you make a mistake.
- No affidavits are provided to facilitate the probate process.
- There’s no eBook to educate users about anything to deal with Wills laws generally (e.g. dependants who you leave out of your Will can still claim an interest in your estate, leaving things to your spouse is more tax-advantageous than leaving it to your children).
Basically, these things can result in a Will being challenged and declared invalid or specific gifts failing and beneficiaries being disappointed (which may lead to claims that the Will needs to be rectified or that the Will-preparer was negligent).
The bottom line: just because your product is founded by a lawyer doesn’t mean it’s any good. There’s a reason I invest significant time, money, and effort on my Will-O-Matic software: so that the resulting product will help Canadians get access to justice (not delay the administration of their estate or lead to lawsuits)!
What makes our formal Will software – the Will-O-Matic – different? Well, here are some clear distinguishing factors (that nobody comes even remotely close to us on):
- Comprehensiveness and flexibility of options
- We education you to the extreme with prompts, definitions and a comprehensive eBook
- Based on provincial Wills laws
- The software and eBook are constantly updated (to reflect changes in the law)
- Ability to edit for free for 1 year
- Technical support available by phone or email
If you don’t believe me, you can try out our Will-O-Matic software before purchasing it. Just register and go through the questions and you’ll be convinced that this is the best thing on the market! So what are you waiting for?