Can we trust professional advice on Will writing?

I couldn’t help but chuckle at a recent survey commissioned by the CIBC (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce).  The heading of the article was that “Surveys show that Canadians are unprepared with estate planning”. The reason according to the survey is that “84 per cent of Canadians with a will say they have named a family member or friend as executor, a move the bank says could be risky.”

The concern raised by CIBC’s Managing Director of estate planning is “”If you appoint a family member or friend without the appropriate experience or knowledge, it could cost your estate thousands of dollars, as well as months or even years of angst for your loved ones.”

In our opinion this is nothing more than a marketing promotion, thinly disguised as a news article. It doesn’t explain which circumstances lend themselves to naming a family member as an Executor, and more importantly, it doesn’t even mention the fees charged by professional estate planning services like those offered by CIBC. The CIBC representative is correct – if you do choose a family member as an Executor  it could cost your estate thousands of dollars. What he neglects to mention is that if you choose to name the CIBC as your Executor it is guaranteed to cost your estate thousands of dollars. There’s a reason why five of the top eight most profitable companies in Canada are banks.

Naming a family member as your Executor may in many cases be an extremely smart decision and it does not suggest that you or your family are unprepared. I personally had a relative lose his wife. She had a Will and he was the sole beneficiary. All that was required was for the accounts to be transferred solely into his name, and that taxes were filed. The solicitors who took care of this charged the estate £15,000. He was robbed, but like most professional services, their fees were based on a percentage of the value of the estate, not on the amount of time spent working.

Some estates are complicated and could probably benefit from professional Executor services, but don’t be influenced by surveys like this one from the CIBC. It can take time but having a family member take on the role of Executor of your estate could save your family thousands. There are also many resources available for all jurisdictions including Canada, the US and the UK.

We explained in a previous article that 19% of solicitors in England write themselves into Wills as the Executor because they know that this is the most lucrative part of the estate planning business.

At , and we promote the idea of not being afraid of the law. Writing your Will and probating your Will are not activities that should be beyond the capabilities of the general public. Put simply, your Will allows you to describe how you would like your estate to be distributed, and the Executor then has a responsibility to carry out these instructions. Many professionals want you to believe that the process is way beyond the understanding of anybody but a trained individual. It is not, and you should not be intimidated into paying thousands of dollars for services that you don’t need.

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