Having written on this topic in the past, it was not my intent this week to revisit the issue of cheap "lawyer prepared" will kits. However an article in this paper Jan 20, 2009 written by a reporter for the Canadian Press calls for a response.
These homemade will kits are marketed as a way to save money. The perceived cost of having a lawyer prepare your will and powers of attorney is somehow seen as a needless expense. Yes a $4.00 will kit is cheap. So is cutting your own hair. Does a botched job really save money?
If you want to save money write out your own will in your own handwriting without witnesses. It's legal (eh, I'm giving free advise here). It's also an invitation to make unintended errors which may bring grief to your family and heirs, and a lawsuit to question its validity.
Just for fun, I ordered a will kit at a cost of $40.00. Let me share with you the very first paragraph on the very first page:
"This will kit does not constitute legal advice. Its sole aim is to help you prepare your own Will. If you require advice on any legal or related matters, the publishers of this will kit suggest you seek advice from a qualified professional. While this will kit describes the process of making a Will we do not provide a detailed analysis of all factors that may come into play when making a Will."
And the real clincher for me is the last sentence:
"As far as the law allows, all people connected with the writing, editing and publishing of this will kit disclaim all liability arising from the negligence of writer, editor, or publisher of this will kit."
You bet it's written by lawyers who are covering their backsides.
This disclaimer should cause any thinking person to go no further.
Here's some more free advice. See a lawyer who's experienced in the preparations of wills and powers of attorney even if you have a very simple estate. Ask up front the cost of wills and powers of attorneys. You may be surprised at how reasonably priced it is to buy peace of mind that comes with this professional service. Lawyers, who carry professional negligence insurance, in case any errors are made, will never have you sign a waiver of responsibility.
Cut your own hair if you must save money, but have a professional draw up your Will and Power of Attorney.
Keith M. Jones is a partner at the law firm of Cobb & Jones LLP.