Don’t do DIY wills

By Staff | November 18, 2014 | Last updated on November 18, 2014
2 min read

To avoid unwanted stress on your family after your passing, you must have a will in place before you die or become mentally incapacitated. But not just any will does the job.

Advisor Ted Polci learned this lesson the hard way, when a poorly worded will led his own family into a nightmare scenario. While the family patriarch intended nine children as heirs, a wording mistake caused unintended consequences when one of the offspring died before he passed away. When the child died, the will as written appeared to divide up the $1-million estate among 27 descendants—both the children and the grandchildren, most of whom were not yet adults. “It was just a mess,” says Polci. “It took almost two years to get it sorted out.”

There are many low-cost, do-it-yourself will kits on the market. But most advisors argue that these are insufficient to provide a clear picture of your intent. While you may have ticked off the appropriate boxes for assets to distribute – house, car, recreational property – others may have been overlooked.

A thorough will also includes clauses to govern the distribution of any amounts remaining in the estate after all bills have been paid and the gifts or bequests have been distributed.

Wills should also be regularly updated to reflect changes in finances or family situation. Your offspring may go through divorce, with implications for your assets if the will isn’t updated; new grandchildren could joyfully arrive, but not appear in the will; or, most heartbreaking off all, children or grandchildren may not die in the right order, as in Polci’s case, leaving ambiguities in the wording.

Mary Louise Dickson, QC, a partner with Dickson MacGregor Appell in Toronto, cites the case of a parent whose will left an inheritance to a child who predeceased the parent.

Don’t despair. If you do have a copy of a will kit that you’ve filled out, bring it with you to an estate planning lawyer’s office. At the very least, it’ll be a starting point for creating a legally clear – and binding – document. staff


The staff of have been covering news for financial advisors since 1998.