A resolution for the New Year that you may have considered is making your will. Depending on your estate, there may be an enormous cost to passing without one. Your estate may be burdened with legal expenses and court fees for appointments of executors. There may be uncertainty and disagreement between possible beneficiaries exacting a high personal cost to your family. The province may even need to step in at more expense to your estate.
Clearly having your will and estate plan in order is a benefit both to you and your family. Many resolve to get their wills done, but many never see that resolution fulfilled.
A new service is gaining popularity that essentially consists of local law firms offering will writing services to supporters of Canadian charities. The service is simply titled the Canadian Free Wills Network. It is quickly showing itself to be a winning situation for Canadian charities, the public, and members of the legal profession. In short, the charity pays the lawyer a small fee for a simple “core” will. Additional work – such as a spousal trust or trusts for kids or power of attorneys – is not included, but a simple will is in place, which is a good step forward.
Many Canadian charities recognize that many of their supporters have not yet made a will. The reasons may be varied, but procrastination and inertia tend to play a role. If you are a member or supporter of a Canadian charity, you may be contacted by the organization to encourage you to have your will prepared and your estate put in order by a local participating lawyer. The benefit to the charity is the chance you will include and remember it in your will. In fact, many charities look to legacies for up to half the money they raise.
There is no obligation or pressure of any kind to include the charity in your will, however. A will is privileged and confidential between you and the lawyer, and the contents can never be shared unless you provide written permission. Generally, however, “warm supporters” of a charity are inclined to recognize and include that charity in their will – not to mention there are tax benefits to your estate to remember your favourite registered charity in your will. The only request is that you provide a simple declaration form to the charity so it can evaluate the program.
For members of the public, an offer by your favourite charity to pay the cost of your simple will is a great motivator to actually get your estate plan in order. For the lawyer, there is twofold benefit. The lawyer has made contact with new clients in the community and can build a relationship for future legal needs. There is also the benefit of giving back, by being involved in the Canadian Free Wills Network to both address the ongoing challenge of making legal services available and affordable to the public, and to participate in a highly innovative program that is motivated by philanthropy and helping others.
Perhaps a good start to the new year would be to call your favourite charity and see if they participate in the Canadian Free Wills Network. The goal of the Network is to have a participating lawyer in every community. In this respect, I plan to participate and I hope other lawyers in the community will join if they have not yet done so.