When you think of making a will, you may think of a millionaire

In reality, you don't have to be old and rich to make a proper will. Writing a will is not about gifting diamonds and cufflinks, and getting a good will doesn't have to be expensive.

In this article, we'll look at your options for making a will, the pros and cons of each, and how much you can expect to pay to get a will that meets your needs.

What is a will? 

A will is a legal document that details how you want your property and money to be distributed after your death. It also names the guardians you want to take care of your minor children and pets. A will is also the document in which you appoint an executor to handle these matters on your behalf.

To learn more about wills in Quebec.

Why is a will worth the cost?

For most people, peace of mind is the main reason why a will is worthwhile. A will is the only way to ensure that your assets and possessions will benefit your loved ones and the causes you care about. It is also the way you can ensure that your children will be taken care of, if you are a parent. 

When you die without a will, it is called intestate death, which means you cannot choose the beneficiaries of your estate. The government will be responsible for distributing your assets to your family and loved ones, a process that can be very stressful, time-consuming and expensive for families.

Here are some other important potential consequences of a death without a will: 

  • A common-law spouse has no right to any share of the estate in Quebec.
  • If you have dependent children and no surviving parent, the court will appoint a guardian for your children. 
  • Your estate is distributed according to the Civil Code of Quebec, with rules that offer very little flexibility. 

Learn more about what happens when you die without a will.

What are the costs of not having a will?

The costs of dying intestate, or without a will, can be significant for the loved ones you leave behind. Dying without a will also causes stress, turmoil and even conflict within the family. 

The lack of clear instructions means your assets can go to the wrong people. And if your loved ones want to make a claim on the estate or challenge court decisions, they will have to pay legal fees out of pocket.

In addition, dying intestate means paying higher estate administration taxes, and fewer things pass to your loved ones. If you do not have a notarial will at death, your entire estate will have to be probated, which involves legal fees. In Quebec, it costs $65 to have a will probated. To this amount must be added the fees of the lawyer or notary, if applicable.

Other disadvantages: without a will, you won't be able to donate to charities, your pet may end up with someone who is not fit to care for it and, if you are a parent, your children may end up with the wrong guardian. 

The cost of making a will in Quebec

Average cost of a will in Quebec

On average, a will in Quebec can cost from $250 to over $1,000. These costs vary depending on your situation, the complexity of your estate and the type of will you choose. 

Some of the most affordable ways to get a well-constructed will are: Using a will kit, which can work well for people with a limited budget and a simple estate. There are also online will services like Willful, which will guide you through the process, while providing experts for your more complex questions. 

To choose the option that's best for you, consider the following:

  • The complexity of your estate (for example, if you are passing on a business, multiple properties, etc.) 
  • How often you plan to update and change your will
  • Whether you need to spend more on related estate planning needs (granting a power of attorney, registering your will, etc.)

Cost of using a will kit or template:

A will kit usually consists of a step-by-step written guide and a template to fill in the blanks. You can find them online or in bookstores and you should expect to pay about $50 or less. 

While it is technically possible to find a free will kit or template, be careful because there is often an unexpected catch. The company may try to sell you something afterwards, and it's hard to tell if the template was created by a legal expert.

Benefits of using a will kit

  • The will kit is probably the cheapest option for writing a will.
  • It can be completed offline, which can be an advantage, depending on your preferences.
  • You will learn the process of making a simple will by using the kit.
  • Generally covers all your needs for a simple estate.

Disadvantages of using a Will Kit

  • No live assistance. If you don't have additional questions, you will need to do independent research or get additional help.
  • Potential for error: it is up to you to make sure you understand all the legal terminology. If you make a mistake, there is no one to review your will and correct it.
  • Difficult to make revisions: if you need to update your will, you will have to buy a new kit and start the whole process over again.
  • May not include related documents such as a power of attorney.
  • Not ideal for complex estates.
  • It is a very cookie cutter approach so it may not take into account your particular situation. 

Cost of drafting a will with a lawyer:

Working with an attorney can charge up to $3,000 for probating a will. In addition, you may pay extra for legal advice and additional documents related to estate planning, such as the appointment of a representative and a power of attorney. 

A lawyer's will in Quebec must be signed in front of two witnesses who have no interest in the estate. If not also notarized, the will will have to go through a probate process after the death of the testator, a process that can cost between $1,000 and $1,500. 

Benefits of writing a will with a lawyer

  • A lawyer can help you resolve a complex estate or instruction.
  • A lawyer may be able to use creative strategies to reduce probate fees and taxes. If this is your goal, you should expect to work with a team of tax professionals (such as accountants) and you will likely have to pay more than just the lawyer's fees. 
  • A lawyer will register the will in the Register of Wills of the Quebec Bar
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Disadvantages of making a will with a lawyer

  • A will with a lawyer will have to go through probate. This involves a delay that may delay the settlement of the estate, as well as court costs and legal fees to consider.
  • There are usually additional costs associated with important aspects of estate planning, such as granting power of attorney to a representative.
  • Hourly rates may exceed initial expectations.
  • If you are shopping around on a budget, you may not have as much time with the attorney as you would like, and the attorney may not have time to ask you as many questions as he or she should. 
  • If you decide to update your will, you will probably have to pay more to see a lawyer again

Cost of drafting a will with a notary:

In Quebec, there is the possibility of writing a notarial will in the presence of a notary. This is the only type of will that saves your loved ones from having to go through the probate process and the only one that is made in the presence of a single witness. In Quebec, you can expect to pay between $350 and $1000 per notarial will, depending on the complexity of your situation. There is also an additional fee of between $200 and $1000 if you wish to add power of attorney documents or a mandate of incapacity. These fees can be charged as a flat fee or on an hourly basis. 

Advantages of writing a will with a notary

  • It does not have to be probated, so the notarial will helps with a quick liquidation process.
  • It is very difficult to contest, so you are assured that your wishes as detailed in the will will be respected.
  • The notary will register your Will in the Register of Testamentary Dispositions of the Chambre des notaires, which will make it easier for your executor to access the Will. It is also impossible to lose or destroy it. 
  • The notary is an expert in estate planning, so he or she can advise you if you have a complex estate. 
  • It can be drafted online with a Willful package. If you use the Willful platform, a notary can then electronically sign it in the presence of a single witness. 

Disadvantages of drawing up a will with a notary

  • A notarized will involves higher initial costs than a witnessed will
  • If you wish to make changes, you will have to pay the notary's fees again when making a new will. 
  • You will need to have an essential meeting with the notary in order to have your will signed and registered.

Cost of making a will online:

Creating a will online with a service like Willful makes the drafting process faster and easier to understand. Plus, it costs a fraction of what you would spend on a lawyer. These services are simple and affordable, and one of their big advantages over a will kit is that you get expert help when you need it, and they are easy to update. Creating a will with Willful starts at $99 and can go up to $349 for packages that include power of attorney and will registration.

 Learn more about online wills in Quebec. 

Advantages of an online will

  • You can be sure you won't make a mistake with a guided process and helpful explanations, as well as expert assistance.
  • Create a will anywhere, anytime.
  • It's possible to create a notarized will digitally. Willful is the first company to offer notarized wills validated by an online interview with our notary to formalize the document and register it. 
  • It allows you to make a will for a fraction of the cost of a will made by a specialized lawyer or notary. For a witnessed will and a simple estate, there is no need to consult a lawyer or notary to make a valid will. 
  • With Willful, updates to your will are included in your initial fee (However, for a notarized will, a fee for a new execution of the will will need to be considered).

Disadvantages of an Online Will

  • If you want a high level of human support and the ability to get legal advice, you may not enjoy using an online Will service.
  • If your estate is very complex, you may not be able to capture the level of detail required.

Cost of a Handwritten Will:

Creating a handwritten will, also known as a holographic will, is usually free, although you may end up spending money on outside research or consultation. Writing a will requires legal knowledge. For most people, the effort required to learn the ins and outs of estate law is simply not worth it. 

In general, we only recommend a holographic will if you cannot afford to make another one, as it leaves too much room for error.

Advantages of a handwritten will

  • A handwritten will is free.
  • If you want to learn more about estate law, this is a great way to apply your knowledge.
  • If you like working with paper and pen, this option may be right for you.
  • You don't need a witness for a handwritten will.

Disadvantages of a handwritten will

  • Easy to make mistakes and forget key details.
  • Difficult to update: Holographic wills cannot be written using a computer, and you will have to rewrite the will by hand if there are any changes.
  • It requires a lot of time and knowledge.
  • It can be contested if your instructions are not clear.
  • It will have to go through the probate process, which can cost much more than a notarized will in a platform like Willful. 

Choosing a will that fits your budget and needs

Making a will is the only way to ensure that your intentions are respected upon your death. You have options for creating an affordable will and, in doing so, you will save your family unnecessary stress and expense upon your death. Regardless of whether you choose an online notarized will, a lawyer-drafted will, or a handwritten will, having a will is far more important than how you write it.

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