COVID-19 has caused many Canadians to start thinking about making a will – an often-dreaded task usually put off to another day. Many people know they should have one, but it’s always not clear as to why it is so important to have a legal will in place. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, there are pressing questions about how to write a will or how to change an existing one, given the limitations of quarantines, self-isolation and social distancing. How can you take care of your legal will without visiting a lawyer’s office? Fortunately, you can and it’s easier than you might think. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about making a will during a pandemic.
What is a Legal Will?
Your Last Will and Testament is a legal document that clearly outlines how you’d like your assets (property, investments and anything of value) distributed. In your will, you’ll name an Executor of your estate who will be in charge of ensuring your wishes are carried out. If you have children, your will should include provisions for their care.
Why Do You Need a Will?
If you are the age of majority (either 18 or 19, depending on the province where you live) in Canada, odds are you need a legal will. If you have any assets to be allocated after your death, a legal will takes care of this. If you don’t have a legal will and have not named an Executor, what should be a relatively simple process of distributing your assets could become a long and drawn-out process.
If you have children, recently got married or divorced, have property, own a business or anything valuable (like heirlooms, art, or jewelry), you should have a legal will to declare how you want your assets distributed.
In particular, during the COVID-19 pandemic, when legal systems are strained, and you are more at risk of becoming ill, or worse, passing away, it’s essential to have a legal will and name an Executor who ensures your wishes are honoured.
The midst of a pandemic is not the best time to create a legal will. Many law offices are closed or adjusting to working from home, which will lead to long delays in processing and backlogs. In some provinces, lawyers have been granted special dispensation to create wills that don’t require an in-person signature. That is not true of every province and going to an office setting could increase your exposure to COVID-19.
That said, there are other ways to create a legal will that doesn’t involve going to a law office or in-person communication. If your needs are straightforward, you could create an online will using a service like Willful. Willful is an online legal will creation platform that lets you create an uncomplicated legal will from home. Willful is inexpensive, fast, and is an excellent alternative to a traditional lawyer, especially when the provincial and federal governments are urging Canadians to practice social distancing and staying home as much as possible. Read more in The Best Online Wills Kits in Canada.
What Should You Include In Your Will?
Your Last Will and Testament includes several sections that apply to everyone and some sections that apply just if you meet specific criteria. Most legal wills are comprised of three documents: Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney for Emergency, and Healthcare Emergency Representative & Wishes. They include the following information:
- How your estate (including property and assets) will be divided and name your beneficiaries
- Who will be the executor of your will
- Who will become the caregiver of your children
- Plans for emergencies, including who can make decisions for you in the event that you become incapacitated
- Plans for what should happen upon your death, including burial, cremation or specific funeral arrangements
In case you are wondering, Willful includes all these critical sections in its online wills. So you’ll be covered!
Pros And Cons of Online Wills vs. Lawyers
- You can create your will safely at home.
- Cost-efficient. A simple online will can cost just $99.
- Ideal for uncomplicated legal circumstances.
- Make your legal will in as little as an hour.
- No legal advice. Online legal wills are templates, and you miss out on tailored legal advice.
- Not suitable for all legal circumstances. If you have foreign property, online legal will creation may not be sophisticated enough for you.
- Not available in every province – online legal wills are not available in Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island or Newfoundland.
- Expert advice. If you have complex legal requirements, a lawyer can tailor your will to suit your needs
- More expensive. Creating a legal will through a lawyer could cost in excess of $1,000 for a basic will.
- More time-consuming. You may need to take the time to visit a lawyer’s office, which exposes you to risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Requires multiple trips to the law office. You’ll need to make at least two visits – one for the initial meeting and one to pick up and sign your will.
9 Easy Steps to Making a Will
What are the essential steps to making a will? We’ve outlined all the important stuff that you should include in nine easy steps. Note: if you’re using a reputable online will service like Willful, these steps will be automatically included as part of the will-making process.
1. Decide on lawyer vs. online will: If you have a straightforward situation, an online legal will service will suffice. If your situation is more complicated (e.g. foreign property, blended family, child support), you may need a lawyer to create a customized legal will.
2. Designate an Executor: This is the person who will be in charge of executing the wishes outlined in your will, distributing funds to beneficiaries, and acting on behalf of your business and financial interests. Ideally, this person can be a spouse, relative or close friend, but you can also designate a lawyer to act on your behalf.
3. Name the beneficiaries of your estate: These are the people who you choose to pass on your property or belongings when you are no longer living.
4. If you have children, designate a legal guardian: This is a person (or people) who will assume legal, moral and financial responsibility for your children if you and your spouse pass away.
5. Choose a Power of Attorney: This is a legal document that gives someone you trust the authority to make decisions on your behalf and represent you to others. You should name a power of attorney for (a) your property (b) for personal care and (c) health care wishes.
6. Outline your wishes: If you have end of life or terminal illness wishes, explicitly outline what you want. This includes everything from pain management to medical treatment plans to burial preferences.
7. Print two copies: For a will to be valid, it must be in writing as a physical copy. You cannot store a will online.
8. Sign your will and have two witnesses sign at the same time: For typed wills to be valid, you must sign your will with two witnesses present and they must sign to confirm they have witnessed your signature. Your witnesses could be any two adults; friends, neighbours or co-workers. Valid witnesses cannot be a named executor or their spouse; a named beneficiary or their spouse; or a minor. The signatures must appear at the very end of the will.
9. Store your will in a safe place: An original copy of should be stored somewhere safe, preferably in a place that is known and accessible to your Executor.
The Final Word
If you’re an adult and you have financial assets or children, it’s smart to have a legal will. If you don’t have one yet – don’t panic – many Canadians don’t. That said, there has never been a more critical time to ensure you have your affairs in order than during a global pandemic. If you’re looking to create an uncomplicated will and you don’t want to take the risk of visiting a lawyer’s office, an online will creation service like Willful is a fast and inexpensive alternative.
Once you’ve got your will created, you may also want to consider obtaining life insurance. A term life insurance policy can cost as little as $20 per month. It can insure your family against the catastrophic financial consequences associated with your death and potential lost income.