Resources & Insights

Barriston Briefs: The Pitfalls of DIY Wills

We’ve all taken some satisfaction from completing a do-it -yourself project, whether it’s knitting yourself a slightly lopsided scarf or installing a new backsplash in the kitchen, we weekend warriors have earned our badges of honour. However, much like a do-it- yourself haircut, your Last Will and Testament and other testamentary documents are probably best left to a professional.

Online do-it-yourself Wills have become quite popular as they are quick, relatively easy and inexpensive. But, as estate litigators we see many issues cropping up from these homemade Wills which can lead to the testators wishes not being fulfilled or worse, the Will being declared invalid. Here are some of the big problems we are seeing:

  • There are technical requirements surrounding the execution of a Will which are often missed. A Will must be signed and dated by the testator as well as two witnesses. Without these requirements the Will could be declared invalid.
  • Failing to include specific clauses to make your Will most effective. A professional can ensure your Will best reflects your wishes and even offer guidance on how to avoid probate taxes being paid on your estate.
  • Will storage problems such as Wills being lost or damaged, failing to tell your executor where your Will is or locking it away without instructing your executor how to access it. One of the benefits of having your Will drafted by a lawyer is that we can store your Will for you and ensure it makes it into the right hands upon your passing.
  • Failing to think of all possible scenarios. A lawyer can help you think through all possible estate complications that may cause difficulties after your passing and include clauses to deal with these scenarios.

Estate litigation can be lengthy and costly, and in many cases litigation can be easily avoided by having a lawyer help you with your estate planning. The fact of the matter is you do not know what you don’t know, lawyers are trained to ask the right questions to ensure your Will both reflects your wishes and is ironclad. The next time you feel the need to take on a do-it-yourself project we recommend something lower stakes like making yourself a pair of cut-off jean shorts rather than drafting your Last Will and Testament. Your loved ones may not appreciate the shorts but with respect to your Will being drafted by a trusted lawyer, your loved ones will thank you.

Lindsay Hayes