Westcoast Wills & Estates
Westcoast Wills & Estates
Preparing yourself to get a new will or update an old will can seem like a daunting task. The wills lawyers at Westcoast Wills can set you at ease by walking you through the process step-by-step. Contact us or see what previous clients say about us.
Common questions that we routinely hear from people looking for wills are:
Q. Why get a will?
- A will is a basic document that everyone should have because it says what happens with your assets after you die.
Q. Should I get an online will?
- Using a will kit online is a bad idea. The following is a list of the possible problems with online will forms:
- Who prepared the template? Many online will websites claim their templates are vetted by lawyers, but who are these lawyers? Do they practice law in BC, Nova Scotia, Mississippi, Timbuktu?
- No estate planning advice: A will is just one product of a proper estate plan. Many people are lured into a false sense of security with simply getting a will prepared online without getting any estate planning advice. The estate planning advice that our wills lawyers give routinely saves our clients thousands of dollars in probate fees, taxes and legal expenses. Estate planning is the first step to making a will; without it, a will could be useless.
- Is it a valid will?: Does the online will comply with BC law, or is it based on a template based on Ontario’s laws or even worse, based on another country’s laws? Even if it is a will based on BC law, does it hold up to the strict standards that make a will legal?
- Have you filled the online wills form out correctly? Do you really understand what all that legalese means? Is the wording of your gifts in the will unclear or ambiguous in any way?
- Has the will been signed correctly? The wills law in BC has very strict rules about what makes a valid will. Unless signed correctly, a will is not valid. See Part 4 of the Wills, Estates and Succession Act of British Columbia.
- Our wills and estate lawyers routinely help executors with flawed wills done online that were done without the proper estate planning advice and drafting. Such wills and lack of advice often result in unneeded probate and legal fees, confusion, disputes, excess taxes being paid, and disappointed beneficiaries.
Q. Is there a difference between wills done by notaries and wills done by will and estate lawyers?
- There are two main differences between notary drafted wills and wills done by an estate planning lawyer:
- Trusts: Notaries are forbidden by law from drafting anything but a simplest trust in wills (paying out to a minor beneficiary at the age of 19). Estate planning lawyers can draft any kind trust in a will.
- Expertise: Estate planning lawyers are devoted to practicing in the area of wills and estates only – with that comes a lot of education, experience and expertise. Our wills lawyers in particular, frequently bounce ideas off of each other to find the best solution for our clients. Sometimes most valuable is that our wills lawyers constantly take courses about other areas of law that may intersect with estate planning, such as in probate law, family law, insurance, financial planning, creditor law, business law and tax law, so we can either provide clients with relevant advice or refer them to someone who can. Most notaries tend to be generalists, doing some real estate transfers, some wills, and some document notarization.
Q. How do I find a wills and estates lawyer near me?
- Westcoast Wills is available to meet from anywhere, using videoconferencing. We also have two convenient offices: on Lonsdale in North Vancouver, and on West Broadway in Vancouver. We also know of estate lawyers in other areas of the province and would be happy to share their names. Please contact us.
Q. How do I find the best wills lawyer?
- Firstly, choose a lawyer who specializes in wills and possibly one other area of law. The phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none” definitely applies to law, as there are way too many intricacies with every area of law to keep on top of all of them. Wills law is routinely the area of practice with most negligence claims against lawyers because all to many lawyers (who do not focus on this area) do not appreciate the subtle complexities in estate planning.
- Secondly, many law firm websites have a review section from previous clients. There are also independent review websites, such as Yelp, Google and Facebook. Westcoast Wills is proud to have so many happy clients and you can see some reviews here on our website, Google reviews here, and Facebook reviews here.
Q. How can I find a lawyer specializing in wills?
- Our lawyers each wear two hats: estate planning lawyer and probate lawyer. As estate planners, we help our clients avoid probate where ever possible. This can be done through trusts, beneficiary designations or joint ownership. Care must be taken with all of these methods though, as there can be absolutely huge tax ramifications if done wrong. Consult with one of our estate planning lawyers to avoid probate in a way that works for you and minimizes unnecessary taxes.
Q. What is an estate planning lawyer and how are they different?
- Estate planning lawyers are different than more generalized lawyer because we focus on estate planning only. Generalized lawyers who draft wills and notaries who draft wills tend to focus only on that – drafting a will. At a typical 15 to 30 minute meeting with them, they go straight into questions like “who do you want as your executor” and “who do you want to give your assets to?.” Creating an estate plan before getting to the will often saves you money on taxes, eliminates disputes after you die and eliminates the need for probate. A meeting with a proper estate planning lawyer should take between 1 and 2 hours.
Q. How much does it cost for a simple will?
- Firstly, only about 15% of wills are truly simple with no complication. The problem is that you wouldn’t know if you’re a part of that 15% until an estate planning lawyer sits down with you and goes reviews your circumstances.
- That said, getting a straightforward will for one person can range in price from $0 to $1,500 in the Vancouver area. Firms often offer discounts for doing wills for spouses, as it’s the same amount of meeting time and similar documents.
- $0 – $150: At this price for a will, you would either be doing it yourself or filling out an online wills form or a will form bought at a drugstore. Obviously with no legal training, you shouldn’t be hand writing your own will, as this often results in frustrated and angry loved ones after your death, excess taxes after your death, and in some cases tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees after you die. Online will template forms are equally as dangerous. See the dangers of making a will online detailed above.
- $350 – $500: Notaries and general practitioner lawyers often charge in this price range for getting a will in Vancouver. Far better than writing a will yourself or doing an online will, but see above for the potential downsides of going this route.
- $550 – $1,500: This is the price range to expect in getting a will from an estate planning lawyer. The huge difference in price usually comes down to the location. Do they have luxury office space on the 40th floor of a downtown office building, or do they work from home or or less expensive office spaces? At Westcoast Wills & Estates, we are proud to be at the lower end of this price spectrum, while offering the same or higher amount of expertise as many lawyers at the higher end of this price scale.