Legal advice when making your will

A lawyer can provide advice and expertise in drafting a will that truly reflects your wishes.

While a lawyer’s time and advice cost money, a lawyer can ensure that you’ve considered all aspects of your estate’s distributionDistribution A payment you get from a mutual fund or company stock. Funds must distribute any capital gains to shareholders at least once a year. This payment can take the form of cash or additional units. Some companies offer Dividend Reinvestment Plans (DRIPs).+ read full definition – and draft a will that reflects your wishes.

How a lawyer can help

When you are preparing your will, a lawyer can

  • understand what you need to do and why,
  • state your true wishes so they will be carried out the way you want them to be,
  • make sure your will follows the laws of your province,
  • reduce taxes and other costs your loved ones may face after your death,
  • make sure your estateEstate The total sum of money and property you leave behind when you die.+ read full definition can be quickly settled, and
  • choose a guardianGuardian A person that you give the legal responsibility to care for a child or adult who cannot take care of themselves. There are different types of guardians for property or health.+ read full definition to care for your children.

Your lawyer can also make notes on your mental capacity to confirm that you are mentally fit to make a will.

Hiring a lawyer to draft your will is money well spent. A lawyer can ensure you’ve considered all aspects of your estate.

Do-it-yourself will kits

Do-it-yourself will kits are attractive because of their low cost. Most of these kits are under $50, compared to legal fees of $300 to $1,000 or more to have a lawyer draft your will.

While some kits have been approved by experienced lawyers, and contain clear and comprehensive drafting instructions, they can’t replace years of legal training and experience. The money you save by using a kit will seem insignificant if your estate incurs thousands of dollars in legal fees to settle disputes or clarify your wishes.

Although lawyers can and do make drafting errors from time to time, they also have malpractice insurance to cover the cost of mistakes that may occur. This is important protection – and something your estate won’t have if you make a will yourself.

3 ways an improperly drafted will can cost your estate

  1. Your intended beneficiaries may not be the ones who inherit your assets.
  2. Even if your intended beneficiaries eventually get what you intended, the legal costs to your estate can be thousands of dollars – money your beneficiaries won’t receive.
  3. Your estate assets can be tied up for years in litigation before they are distributed to their eventual owners.

3 ways to find an estate lawyer

  1. A lawyer you know – Ask a lawyer you have used for other legal work if they handle willsWills A legal document that establishes what you want to happen to your money, property and other assets after your death. A will can also set out plans to take care of your children or other family members who count on you financially.+ read full definition. If they don’t, they can likely refer you to someone who does.
  2. A lawyer other people know – Have a friend or family member recommend a lawyer they were happy with for their will. Your insurance agentInsurance agent A person who is trained and licensed to give expert advice and sell insurance. Some get extra training so that they can also sell investments. They get paid by the companies whose products they sell.+ read full definition, accountant or financial adviser may be able to recommend a lawyer who they know and trustTrust An account set up to hold assets for a beneficiary. A trustee manages the assets until the beneficiary reaches legal age.+ read full definition.
  3. Law Society Referral Service – In Ontario, call the Law Society Referral Service at 1-800-268-8326. They will provide you with the name of a lawyer who does wills. The lawyer will provide a free consultation for up to 30 minutes.

Caution

When it comes to something as important as your estate, play it safe and consult a lawyer.

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