Is creating an online will safe?

More than half of Canadians do not have a will in place because it’s costly and inconvenient – but online will platforms are making will-planning both accessible and affordable
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What will happen to our belongings after we pass away? It’s not a fun conversation to have, and it certainly isn’t easy to plan for an inevitability that sparks fear and worry.  

Death is a reality, so to leave your division of assets up to chance is not the best choice or the most responsible one. Instead, a will and an estate plan can make the process of organizing your life after death much less stressful and a lot more painless.

Now, the question is, where is the best place to create a will? According to Willful, 57% of Canadians don’t have a will. The two main reasons for this is due to the lack of convenience and the overall cost. Online will-planning has become a much more common choice for those looking to get their estate plans in order without leaving their home office. 

Additional Reading for Smart Estate Planning

How do you plan your will online? 

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Online will platforms, such as Willful and LegalWills.ca, are two options for Canadians who don’t have complicated situations. If you require specific legal advice when it comes to planning for their estate, an online will might not work for you. These interactive websites allow you to have a user-friendly experience while earning the knowledge of what basic legal terminology means. Not only will you assign an executor, beneficiaries and personal directive — but you’ll also learn what these terms mean. 

Did you know?

  • An executor is a person responsible for completing the terms of your will to your wishes.
  • A beneficiary is someone who will receive an inheritance or asset from you once you pass.
  • A personal directive will help make all of your medical decisions if you are unable to communicate. 

All of this legal jargon can be overwhelming. While a lawyer would plainly explain these to you in person, online wills provide the option to learn by reading at your own pace. 

Similar to personal tax software, online platforms will take you through a questionnaire that customizes a simple will to suit your needs. Just like any will, you will need to assign guardians for children, distribute personal assets to beneficiaries, and even include what happens to your pets upon your death. 

Although these online will platforms tackle a large part of estate planning, Erin Bury, CEO of Willful, says that a will is just the tip of the iceberg. 

“Checking “make a will” off your to-do list doesn’t mean you have a comprehensive estate plan,” says Bury. “It just means you’ve taken care of the most important part.”

Aside from your will, you will also need to provide necessary information to your executors such as financial accounts, insurance policies, deeds, and funeral plans. These additional pieces to the estate planning puzzle are unavailable online.

What are the benefits (and costs) of online will planning?

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When using an online service, the only requirement is to go to your chosen website and begin to work through the questions. If you are stuck or want to consider plans for a celebration of life, you can leave the site and come back another time to finish. Being free from time constraints is one of the convenient factors that coincide with online will planning. Frequently, you might be caught off guard by questions that are relevant to your will, such as charitable donations or setting up a trust fund for your minor children. 

“You may have specific bequests, like $5,000 to your nephew or your piano to your niece,” says Tim Hewson, President of LegalWills.ca. Hewson says that online will planning gets you thinking about what you hope to see with your assets. You’ll also get a better feel for who is an excellent fit to take on the responsibility of managing these assets on your behalf. 

In short, the apparent benefits of online will planning include cost and convenience. “Using an online tool means you can create your will from your couch, at a time that’s convenient for you, without having to spend a fortune,” says Bury. For some, Bury says that scheduling an appointment with a lawyer can be inconvenient, and cost-prohibitive.

In-person estate planning ranges from $400 to $1,000 and up for a simple will. Wills that require a more comprehensive plan can be more costly. Online will packages range from $99 to $249 on Willful, and $39.95 to $124.95 on LegalWills.ca

What are the disadvantages of an online will?

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On the flip side, online platforms can only do so much. For those of us with more complex situations, such as separation, divorce, or a child with a disability, tackling your will online won’t provide the customization or coverage that you need. Take it from Ed Olkovich, an Ontario Certified Specialist in Estates and Trusts Law, who says that “most online forms do not consider unique needs.” 

In a Globe and Mail question and answer column, Olkovich mentioned the disadvantages of online will services. Those reasons include not having a professional to review your documents, the inability to customize and the overall support in how you make your decisions and what decisions are best. 

Some other considerations for why an online will might not be right for you are your level of tech-savvy required and that online wills cannot be stored digitally — requiring you to print, sign and save those documents somewhere safe at home or otherwise.

Although affordable, assets and belongings are precious. As such, protecting them in case of your death is essential. 

Is it safe to create a will online?

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After getting to know the pros and cons of creating a will online, the real question we’re all itching to know is whether or not this option is safe? The answer: it depends. 

Personally, creating an online will was an easy option. After having a child we were unable to take the time to sit down with a lawyer to accomplish this very important estate planning task; for us, the quick and painless option was using an online tool to create a will, which allowed us to quickly accomplish what we needed, in case our child required a guardian. 

As we get older and our assets increase and lives become more sophisticated, a more comprehensive will might be essential. For now, though, the print-off document that lists our wishes is a great start and was incredibly painless to complete. 

 Thinking about our mortality isn’t exactly how we’d like to spend our Sunday afternoons, but that doesn’t mean we can avoid the topic either. You might not believe an online will platform is the safest option — but the factor that makes this decision simple is whether or not you have a will, and how quickly you might need one. 

Alyssa Davies
Alyssa Davies

Alyssa is an award-winning personal finance blogger and founder of MixedUpMoney.com. She writes about being a mom, overcoming personal debts, and how to get away with affording your ridiculously expensive latte habit. A new homeowner, Alyssa brings her real-life knowledge of the Canadian real estate market and smart money matters to this growing brand.

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