In a previous post, I wrote about why you should have a properly prepared will and used the words "properly prepared" a number of times. Today, I am going to switch that slightly to, "why you should get a lawyer-prepared will".
I can hear some say, "of course, a lawyer says you should get a lawyer to do your will as they want your money." After all, I have heard it from my own friends, but when you look at it in the long run, the cost of a lawyer-prepared will can potentially save your estate money in the future.
Here are just a few reasons that I recommend a lawyer-prepared will:
You will have a will that uses the proper terminology. Unfortunately, when completing a will on their own, a testator (i.e. the person whose property is the subject of a will) may not know the proper terminology for certain positions named in the will or portions of the will. While naming someone a "guardian" instead of an executor may seem small, it can create issues when the person named presents the will for probate with the Court.
You will have someone reviewing the descriptions of assets to make sure they are clearly defined. In most instances, landowners know their land descriptions and can rattle them off with no issues. However, they can sometimes get confused, thinking a south-east quarter is the north-east, because of the placement of a road. Unfortunately, improperly described land may end up being included in the residue of your estate instead of going to the person you planned on. A lawyer will review the description in land titles to check that the land referenced in the will is correct; at least I know I would.
You avoid intestacies. Intestacy is the fancy word for "dying without a will". It can also apply where there is a will, but items have been left out. In some hand-written wills, intestacies can be created where a person goes into detail about who gets what individual items and they forget to deal with the "residue" of their estate (i.e. anything not listed individually).
You avoid issues relating to witnesses. A witness cannot be a person named as a beneficiary in a will, nor a spouse of a beneficiary. Unfortunately, those using pre-printed will kits are not always aware of these rules, which will negate any gift made to that person.
Lawyer can assist in avoiding unintended pitfalls. For example, someone preparing their own may not know that choosing an executor who does not live in Canada can create unintended issues with the Canada Revenue Agency.
Lawyers use language and will work with you to cover potential contingencies. For example, you may not think that anything will happen to your executor or beneficiary before you, as they are much younger, but a lawyer will help plan for those unlikely, but possible, events.
Originally published June 8, 2020
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