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Wills and Wal-Mart: Thoughts on doing it yourself

British Columbia residents may be surprised to learn that, according to a 2012 survey, more than 50 percent of Canadians have not completed a will, in part because they either don't think they can afford it or they don't know where to start. They could be right about the price: After all, a basic will can run anywhere from $369 to $1,000 or even more for those that are complex.

Currently, Ontario consumers who are interested in wills and estate planning can drop by Wal-Mart and pick up a premade kit for $99 along with their peanut butter and laundry detergent. Axess Law has begun selling these packages at some of the megastores in Ontario and will expand to other stores across the nation.

Discounted wills like these are gaining in popularity; consumers can easily buy wills on the Internet for less than $100. One version that has been compared to TurboTax for divorces runs between $67 and $77 while another website offers consumers free wills in exchange for a donation.

While these may seem like a steal, a representative of a wealth planning agency echoed the age-old adage: You get what you pay for. She observed that minor changes in legalese could have a serious impact on a will down the road. For example, the will of a relative included the phrase word 'and" instead of the phrase 'and/or" when it named the executor of his estate. The latter meant that one of the men needed to relinquish his right to serve as executor, which took time and delayed the resolution of the estate.

Proper estate planning, including wills, can become very complex. An estate planning lawyer could help a client resolve their questions as they set up an effective estate plan and ensure that the language in the will is precise and correct to avoid pitfalls common to do-it-yourself wills.

Source: Yahoo! Canada Finance, "Wal-Mart wills: Should you trust estate planning to a big box store?", Gail Johnson, July 14, 2014

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