As the world looks for solutions to deal with the ongoing changes we are all facing, many businesses are shifting to virtual methods of service. Whether it be the ability to order your groceries online or having your doctor’s appointment over a video chat, technology is rapidly changing our service expectations. Despite the many benefits of virtual offerings, there are some things that are best reserved for professional, in-person communication. Wills and Estates are a service that falls into this category. As a Lawyer, I understand the desire for virtual services, but in my experience with Wills, the risk may outweigh the reward. If you insist on completing your Will virtually, there are 4 things that you need to know.
1. The risk of doing your Will online, without a Lawyer or Notary, is that you won’t know if it’s done correctly until it’s too late. Virtual Wills rely on the individual who is filling out the online form rather than a trained law professional. There is not a certified advisor at your side to tell you if the Will has been properly completed, which means that you may not ever find out. Finding out that your Will is incorrect is something that will only be apparent after you have passed away, leaving your loved ones to deal with the mess. This can be extremely stressful during a time of grieving and can potentially result in your assets landing in the wrong hands.
2. The fees associated with a do-it-yourself Will is very tempting for many individuals, but the laws in BC are rather specific on what constitutes a valid Will. That said, the processes to correct an original Will that may not be valid under BC laws would result in substantially more in legal fees afterward. By taking the less expensive road, you are risking substantial future payments from your Estate to recover from the possible errors.
3. Online formats often have unnecessary terms involved, which can promote complexity and confusion. In my experience, virtual formats lack the professional touch that is involved in trimming legal information into its simplest form. A Will is a serious document with serious implications. When you are setting up a Will, you deserve to understand exactly what you have agreed to.
4. Lawyers and Notaries are an essential service and remain open, although the process is now designed to ensure proper social distance. I now take my practice consultation and instructions over the phone or via Zoom, which allows easy virtual connection. The confirmation and execution of the Will occur in person - in one of our socially distant, sanitized boardrooms through a plexiglass board. This ensures clear communication and removes the opportunity for errors.