Preparing your Will

Preparing your Will

By tonyadmin . July 4, 2022 .

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A significant portion of Ontario’s residents are approaching their ‘twilight years’. Financial and other analysts are saying that our society will soon experience the largest wealth-transfer ever. Rising housing prices over the last few years has only served to confirm that expectation.

Advertising these facts, and services relating to them, has created a greater public awareness of the advisability of planning for this transfer. Having properly drafted and executed Wills and Powers of Attorney are the fundamental framework for the orderly and efficient working of this transfer. They are important documents.

Our environment of digitization and artificial intelligence has resulted in businesses developing sophisticated systems to try to “computerize” the planning process. Our recent COVID experience has made most of us more accepting of communicating online, either by text or discussion by computer programs where we can see each other.

So my question today is: should the average person create their “estate plan” by engaging one of these online services, or go to their usual lawyer?

Here are some thoughts:

1. Cost: this should not be the determinative factor, but it is relevant. Today I checked out one of the sophisticated online services and found it charges more than my office is charging for the Will and POA documentation preparation. The price does not include the “affidavit of execution”, which most lawyers include in their pricing. The online service also has a mandatory “annual fee” of $39 for couples, and a charge of $50 per year to store your original documents. Most lawyers will not charge anything for those additional services. There is access to some online tools that will help the customer create an inventory and family tree, but these are fairly simple things to do ‘manually’.

2. Human-ness: At the present, this is where our greatest concern lies. Over the decades that Thomas, Efraim LLP has served Durham Region we have found that the face to face interaction that occurs during the meeting between a lawyer and the client, either in person or virtually is often very important. Sometimes clients actually discover their true wishes for the estate plan during this conversation. Often the clients will have an idea they want to implement, but after discussing the implications, a change in attitude occurs. For example, I recently met with an elderly lady who wanted to leave nothing to her two grandchildren by a deceased son. Rather, she said she wanted to leave everything to an acquaintance. I confirmed she could do that but asked her the reasons for her view. I was very careful not to try to persuade her to change her mind, but by the time we had ended our discussion she changed her mind significantly. She basically talked herself into changing the distribution of her assets. I had reason to speak with her afterwards more than once and asked her whether she was happy with her decision. She confirmed ‘yes’. I cannot see how a digital program can sense that there should be a discussion on any particular expressed wish of a person. Then of course there is the issue of exploring the point in a respectful, sensitive manner and knowing when the ‘real’ desire is uncovered.  

3. The rules regarding execution of wills and powers of Attorney are very specific, allowing your lawyers office to assist in execution will help ensure that all documents are properly executed.

There are many other such delicate issues that, in my view, cannot be fully detected and addressed in computer systems.

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