Many people these days are making use of online legal tools, including will kits. This use of online resources, such as will kits, may increase in the coming weeks and months as social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 means that people choose to avoid in-person appointments, including appointments with lawyers. While it’s likely that many people will be resorting to the use of online will kits, those same people may have concerns about the validity and quality of the wills that they are preparing with their online kits.
The pros of online will kits
I typically don’t encourage clients to use online will kits, but that’s not necessarily due to flaws in the kits themselves. My concern with clients using will kits is that they may use these kits without fully understanding what’s going into their wills. It’s often said that a little bit of information can be dangerous, and that definitely applies to legal information. That being said, there are some obvious advantages to will kits, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some of them:
Will kits are cheap, which is a big plus if you’ve been laid off or you don’t know if you’ll have your job for much longer due to the economic hardship resulting from the coronavirus outbreak.
Will kits allow you to prepare estate planning documents without leaving your home, thus minimizing your risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Will kits potentially allow for inexpensive revisions to estate planning documents such as wills, enduring powers of attorney, and personal directives.
Will kits allow for speedy document generation; you don’t have to wait weeks or months to get your will done.
The cons of online will kits
With an online will kit, you’ll get access to a computer program that can help you generate a legal document. However, you probably won’t get much advice that’s tailored to your personal circumstances. When a client sees a lawyer to do a will, they’re not just making the appointment for the generation of the document itself, they’re also seeing the lawyer to get advice on what to include in the document.
These are the some of the disadvantages associated with using will kits:
Will kits may not provide much guidance about what should go in your will, other than prompting you to appoint executors and specify estate beneficiaries.
Will kits may be designed for jurisdictions other than the one where you reside, such as other Canadian provinces or even non-Canadian jurisdictions such as US states.
Will kits leave it up to you to figure out how to properly sign the documents with the proper witnesses.
Will kits typically don’t approach estate planning holistically.
Will kits don’t address issues such as the mental capacity of the person doing the will and whether a person did a will voluntarily without undue influence from others.
Getting the pros without the cons
At our office, we strive to prepare wills for clients safely, cost-effectively, quickly and efficiently. We also do our best to ensure that your estate planning documents will be appropriate to your situation.
Right now, we’re limiting traffic into our office. If you don’t have an appointment, we won’t let you in.
Most client meetings are now being done over the phone or via Skype. We won’t go into work if we’re feeling unwell and for the time being we’re working from home as much as possible. We’re doing our best to clean most surfaces in the office every day.
For wills, we are currently offering clients the option to have a meeting over Skype or over the phone, rather than having them spend 2 to 3 hours in our office. After that, there’s a very short follow-up appointment just to sign the documents. We’ve set things up so that we can maintain a 2-meter distance from clients when they’re signing wills.
Unfortunately, to avoid exposing our staff and clients to COVID-19, we WILL NOT be having in-person meetings with clients in their homes or at hospitals for the foreseeable future. While we’ve previously attended clients’ homes or hospitals when clients were ill, we’ll no longer be offering that service, at least not while the COVID-19 pandemic plays out.
Our rates for wills, enduring powers of attorney, and personal directives are extremely competitive. While will kits are likely to be cheaper, the added value our lawyers provide is worth the extra cost. Also, subsequent revisions to wills we have drafted are relatively inexpensive.
Quick turnaround time
In most cases, we can schedule an appointment and complete documents within a few days, depending on your availability.
Our job is to make things easier for our clients, not more difficult. We’ll steer you in the right direction and do our best to avoid unnecessary complexity.
Customized to your circumstances
When you use a lawyer at Weninger Zhang for your will, you can rest assured that the end product will be appropriate to your circumstances. Though we strive for speed and efficiency, we’ll take the necessary time to make sure that your estate planning documents are suited to your particular needs.