In British Columbia, there are several ways to create a legally valid will.
DIY Will Kits. These are essentially printed fill-in-the-blank document that allows you to insert information about your estate and your life that is relevant to these circumstances. After filling out the form, the document needs to be signed and witnessed correctly to be valid.
These kits may work well if you have a very simple estate and no spouse or children. However, the biggest downside of DIY wills kits is that they are designed to have a one-size-fits-all approach. Therefore, the kit cannot consider all of your unique life circumstances. As such, you may need to go to a lawyer to fix or reorganize the will, which may end up costing you the same or more than if you had gone to the lawyer or notary in the first place.
Online Wills. This method does not involve using a fillable form as the previous one but rather is a platform that uses logic to assess your life situation. Your answers to a series of questions will be formulated into a comprehensive document. This method can work well if you do not have a complex estate or want to make changes to your will in the future. Online wills make it easy to update your will and could be an option if you do not think legal advice is necessary regarding the document.
The main disadvantage is that online wills do not cater to people with complex and particular requirements. Although some lawyers believe you may still need to print and sign your will in wet ink, digital storage and signature of wills have come into existence, and the law is constantly evolving. In B.C., the Wills, Estates, and Succession Amendment Act, 2020, amended the law in British Columbia regarding wills, when Bill 21 came into effect on December 1st, 2021. It allows for the following:
- The electronic signing of wills, meaning the ability to sign the document online using a platform like DocuSign (this does not change the requirement to have witnesses)
- Virtual witnessing of wills over a comprehensive platform
- The digital and online storage of wills, meaning you will have the ability to store a digital file of your will instead of keeping a physical copy
- The digital revocation of a will
Lawyer Drafted Wills. Creating your will with an estate lawyer is the more expensive and the most comprehensive choice. Estate lawyers are versed in estate law and practice, including implications of various investments, taxes, multiple family situations, and generational giving; they can advise you on how to maximize your estate for your beneficiaries.
The most significant barrier reported to people visiting an estate lawyer is the cost and convenience, but it is often the less onerous option in the end. At Stevenson Luchies & Legh, we offer a free-of-charge preliminary call so that we can answer your initial questions and advise you on the best alternative for you.