The perils of using a lawyer to write your Will

A somewhat tongue-in-cheek heading but written in response to the countless articles warning of the perils of writing your own Will using kits or interactive services like those offered at LegalWills. Let’s start with the statistical study; last year in the UK the Legal Services Board conducted a “mystery shopper” study of consumer Wills using software, will writing services and solicitors. The results were quite revealing;

“The experts judging the wills had no idea whether they had been drafted by solicitors, will-writers, or indeed a chap who had just stepped off the Clapham Omnibus. But solicitors firms should be aware of what they found. One in four of the wills was ‘failed’ by the panel, and more than one in three was scored as either ‘poor’, or ‘very poor’. The worrying aspect for the profession is that just as many of the failed wills were drawn up by solicitors!”

How is this even possible given the years of training required of a legal professional and the sky-high fees being charged? I believe it is because your typical law office asks you to complete a simple questionnaire, and then passes the form to an office junior who uses software to write your Will. It is highly unlikely that a lawyer today to prepare a Will with a blank sheet of paper drawing on their years of legal wisdom.

So given that according to this study, you are as likely to end up with a failed Will by going to a solicitor, what are the real perils of taking this approach?

1. You simply won’t get it done
This is the most serious issue; like 70% of adults in the UK, Canada and the US, you simply won’t find the time and money to get your Will written if you are required to use the services of a lawyer or solicitor. Just today, I spoke to a Canadian woman who was quoted $700 to write her Will with a lawyer. It’s unrealistic and prohibitive. Last week the Chief Justice of Canada The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin berated the legal profession as it had ” failed thousands of Canadians who don’t have a legal will, simply because they do not have the money to hire a lawyer to draft one or are so afraid that what it will cost will bankrupt them”

2. You won’t understand it or check it
We wrote about this in a previous blog article. Do you actually understand your Last Will and Testament? given that a lawyer is likely to prepare your Will using software based on your completion of a blank form, do you take the time to check that your family situation is reflected appropriately in the final document? are the names of people and their relationship to you correctly described? The people putting this document together do not know your family as well as you do, so you have to make sure that you understand every paragraph in that document. Is your lawyer prepared to take the time to explain all twenty clauses to you and give you options if any of the paragraphs are not to your liking? According to a recent study 19% of lawyers write themselves into a Will as the Executor, this can be highly lucrative (especially for estates moving between family members where the commission can be as much as 5% of the estate in some jurisdictions). Believe it or not, some lawyers make themselves beneficiaries in their clients’ Wills. We believe that by creating a Will yourself you actually have a better understanding of the final document and certainly have greater control over its contents.

3. You won’t update it
After paying $700 to a legal professional you would like to think that your Will had some longevity to it but it may come as a surprise to many that it could be out of date by the time you get home. One of your beneficiaries may have been involved in an accident, your Executor may tell you that they don’t want to take on the role, the person that you have named as guardian for your children may have discovered that they are expecting triplets of their own. A infinite number of circumstances can change which can suddenly make your Will out of date, and many people are then surprised that they are quoted the same price to change a Will as to create on in the first place. One caller to LegalWills told us that they were quoted $100 per change on a Will. It sounds like our Chief Justice had it about right! I just googled “lawyer free initial consultation” and came across some classics

“It is not economically possible for us to offer free initial consultations for family law matters. There is enormous demand for family law attorneys. Many people who need the services of family law attorneys are simply not able to afford those services. Providing free initial consultations to all those who need them would negatively impact our ability to help our existing and future clients.”

and how about this one from a lawyer in California when commenting on their reasons for not offering free consultations….

“The first is that there are some people in the world who have a lot of time on their hands, and as a result think their time isn’t valuable. These people also seem to think that my time isn’t valuable, either, and that it’s a good idea for us to spend a few hours talking about the vague possibility that at some point in the future they might potentially think about changing their trust, and/or putting together an estate plan. I’m really not interested in meeting with people who don’t think twice about meeting with 5 or 6 different attorneys (and burning up 10-12 hours of their time, and the attorneys’ time) before they’re even serious about planning.”

woah…

This is why more people are turning to services like the ones offered at LegalWills.ca , USLegalWills.com and LegalWills.co.uk. A Will that can be created for $34.95 or £24.95, created in about 30 minutes, completely legal in all appropriate jurisdictions, updated as many times as you wish whenever a circumstance changes, created in the comfort of your own home, and informative online help every step of the way.

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