Make A Will

Different Ways To Create Your Last Will and Testament

You’ve decided you need a will. Congrats! You’ve already taken the first important step towards having a solid estate plan in place. Now you’re tasked with figuring out how to create your will, and as you’ve likely found through your research, the options can be overwhelming.

In this article, we break down the different types of wills, and which scenarios are ideal for each type. Before you read further, make sure you know what makes a will legally-valid by reading Legal Will Basics 101- it’s important to understand that what makes a will legally-valid has nothing to do with whether it was created using a lawyer, or with one of these other options.

Now let’s get into the various types of wills.

Holograph wills:

A holograph will is a will that is handwritten by you. It must be handwritten, and it is the only type of will that does not require the signatures of two witnesses. Holograph wills are a good choice if:

  • You have a legal background and know how to word/phrase your will without contradicting yourself
  • You do not have access to any of the other available options
  • You cannot spend any money on creating your will

When to avoid:

While they’re cost-effective, holograph wills are not the best option for most people since most of us don’t have legal backgrounds, and therefore we can contradict ourselves, or leave important things out. They also aren’t ideal if you need to make updates.

Holograph wills are only recommended if this is the only option you have, and even then, you need to do your research to ensure they’re worded in a way that avoids contradictions.

Also, ensure you only keep the most recent copy, and inform your executor about your holograph will - Aretha Franklin’s family only found her holograph will almost a year after she passed away, and they found multiple versions that contradict each other.

DIY will kits:

A DIY will kit is a printed fill-in-the-blank document that allows you to fill in the key information about your estate - who you are, who your executor would be, who your beneficiaries would be, and who would be a guardian for your minor child. Think of will kits like Mad Libs for estate planning - you fill in the blanks with your information, and once signed and witnessed correctly, you have a valid will.

These types of wills are a good choice if:

  • You have a very simple estate that does to require any custom or specific requests
  • You want to spend less than $50 on creating your will

When to avoid:

The biggest downside of DIY will kits is that they are one-size-fits-all. Every person buying that will kit has a unique life situation, but the will kit treats them all the same. This may be fine for some people with very simple wishes, but it largely doesn’t take into account any complexities, extra wishes, or funeral wishes.

It can also lead to the wrong people witnessing your will, since there are rules around who can sign your will. And, if you’re someone who wants to be able to make updates, they require that you purchase a new kit every time your life situation changes.

Online wills (like Willful):

Willful Online Will

An online will platform like Willful combines the convenience of a will kit with the customization you would expect from an estate lawyer. Our platform isn’t a fill-in-the-blank form, rather it’s a platform that uses logic to assess your life situation, guiding you through a series of questions and creating a customized document for you.

Online will platforms like Willful are a good choice if:

  • You don’t have a complex estate (an online will platform like Willful is not ideal if you have a child with a disability who requires a Henson trust; if you want to disinherit someone from your will; or if you’re separated but not divorced and you want to ensure your ex doesn’t benefit from your estate)
  • You’re single/married, have assets (property, investments), have children and/or pets; and live in our active provinces, then Willful is likely a good fit for you
  • More on who is/isn’t right for online wills in this guide
  • You want to be able to make changes at any time— Willful offers free updates anytime
  • You prefer to use online tools. Keep in mind you still have to print & sign your will - it’s the law.
  • You want to spend less than $250 on your will
  • You don’t need legal advice
  • You want a will that has up-to-date legal content— all of Willful’s content is created in partnership with estate lawyers in each province, and those legal advisors keep our content up-to-date

[LANDSCAPE] Willful Signing & Witnessing with Faces

When to avoid:

Online wills are ideal for many people, but they don’t cater to people with complex estates, who want very custom clauses, and they also aren’t a fit for anyone who wants to sit down and talk to a lawyer about their situation. If you think your situation might be complex, reach out to us anytime and we can clarify whether it’s the right fit for you.

Lawyer-drafted wills:

Creating your will with an estate lawyer is the most expensive, but also the most comprehensive, option. Estate lawyers are trained in estate law, and can handle any complex estate, and give advice on any aspect of your situation. They’re also usually well-versed in estate taxes, so can advise you on how to minimize your estate taxes.

Visiting an estate lawyer is ideal if:

  • You have a complex estate - a child with a disability, you’re separated but not divorced, you want to disinherit someone, you have a business and need a dual will, or if you just want lots of custom clauses or wishes
  • You have the budget to pay a lawyer - typically even simple estate plans will cost $800+ with an estate lawyer
  • You need legal advice - you have questions about your estate plan and only a lawyer can answer
  • You want advice on estate taxes
  • You want a lawyer to create the will so they can handle the probate process as well (moving the will through the court system after you pass away)

When to avoid:

The biggest barriers to people visiting an estate lawyer are cost and convenience. It’s expensive to get a will from an estate lawyer, and usually you have to make an appointment during work hours. Lawyers are often working from their own templates for estate plans - they’re not creating each one from scratch - so if you have a simple estate, it can feel like overkill to visit a lawyer. Also, it means paying hundreds of dollars every time you have to make an update - typically you’ll go through 3-5 life changes (birth of a child, marriage, divorce) that will require updates to your will, which can add up over time.

There you have it - an overview of the different ways to make will, and the pros and cons of each. The key takeaway here is that the worst type of will is no will at all. If you die without a will (what the courts call “intestate”), the courts will make decisions on who gets your assets and who will care for any minor children. Regardless of which method you choose to create your legal will, make sure it’s a fit for your unique life situation, and don’t put it off - our research shows two-thirds of Canadian adults don’t have an up-to-date will, and that means a lot of families aren’t protected.