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How Much Does it Cost to Make a Will in BC?


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  • How Much Does it Cost to Make a Will in BC?

Having a Will is important, yet so many people put off making a Will. Cost concerns are often cited as the reason for not having a Will. 

At Onyx Law Group, we are often asked questions like “What is the price of a Will?”,. “What is the cost of the average Will?”, “Do you need a lawyer to make a Will in BC?”, and “How much does it cost to make a Will with a lawyer in BC?” 

The answer to those questions is, “it depends.” This article will discuss the options and the factors that influence how much it costs to make a Will in BC. 

Understanding the Basics of Wills in British Columbia

Understanding the Basics of Wills in British Columbia

What is a Will, and why is it important to have one?

Your Last Will and Testament is one of the most important legal documents you’ll ever prepare. It doesn’t matter if you have a simple estate or a complex estate with many assets—a Will is essential if you want a say in what happens to your assets, as well as other matters of importance, after you die.

A valid, up-to-date Will achieves a number of important objectives. Among other things, in your Will, you can: 

Choose who will handle your estate. You get to select an executor you trust to administer your estate, and you can name an alternate executor who’ll step in if your first named executor isn’t able to act. Depending on your wants, assets, and family situation, you may choose to appoint co-executors, or you may appoint a professional trust company to act as your executor. 

Control who inherits what from your estate. You provide instructions for what specific assets or how much money each beneficiary shall receive. You Can specify whether those gifts are immediate or delayed and held in trust.

Set up trusts or life estates to preserve wealth, protect assets, and provide long-term financial stability for your loved ones. 

Name a guardian who will be responsible for the care and upbringing of your minor children or pets. 

Express your funeral and burial wishes. 

Deal with business interests and private company shares. 

How do you make a valid Will?

How do you make a valid Will?

First, you must be 16 years of age or older to make a Will in BC. Second, you must have sufficient mental capacity to make a Will (see here for more on the issue of testamentary capacity). 

Third, there are formal validity requirements. Your Will must be in writing and signed by you in the presence of two witnesses, who must be over the age of majority and also sign the Will. There are restrictions on who can act as a witness (for example, a beneficiary named in your Will should not act as a witness). There are special provisions for military wills and wills made in another jurisdiction.

If your Will doesn’t meet these requirements, it may be invalid though it may be possible to ‘cure’ its deficiencies through an application to Court. An improperly prepared, but otherwise valid Will can lead to costly litigation and your estate being distributed in a way you did not intend.

Options & Associated Costs for Creating a Will in BC

DIY Wills

Can I write my own Will in BC to save money? Can I use an online will services or will creation software? The short answer is yes, however it may not be worth it. You must consider the drawbacks of these DIY Will options that may cost you or your estate more in the long run. 

A Will is a legal document that must meet specific legal requirements. Handwritten Wills are valid on their face under BC law, but the will-maker must still observe the formal legal requirements concerning signing and witnessing. A handwritten or home-made Will is more likely to raise questions as to its validity and may lead to legal disputes.

Will kits and online will-making services advertise rates of $39.99 to $99.00. Some offer free Will templates. These options are use-at-your-own-risk. Will kits and online will-making services are one-size-fits-all and may not have the legal effect you intended. Many of these products and services are offered by US companies and are not specific to BC law

If your wishes or affairs are more complicated (i.e. you own a business, own property in multiple jurisdictions, have a blended family, or wish to disinherit a family member), a DIY Will or online will-making service is not for you. Even if you have a seemingly simple estate that can be dealt with by a simple Will, without receiving advice from a lawyer, your Will may not be properly witnessed and executed, or it may not include a trust for someone who later becomes disabled, or it may fail to distribute all potential estate assets, resulting in a partial intestacy. Any assets not dealt with in your Will must be distributed in accordance with BC’s intestacy rules.

Notary Public

Notary Public

In British Columbia, notaries are only authorized to draft simple Wills. Most notaries charge a flat fee for their services, which typically range from $450.00 to $650.00 plus disbursements and taxes.  

BC notaries are restricted from creating Wills that do not vest legal and beneficial interest of the estate assets in the beneficiaries immediately upon the testator’s death. That means, notaries cannot prepare Wills that have life estates or trusts, though they can include a standard trust for minor beneficiaries whereby the executor or trustee holds assets for the minor beneficiaries until they reach the age of majority. 

Given those restrictions, a Notary Public can only prepare very simple Wills. So, for example, if you have young children who you do not wish to receive their inheritance at 19 years of age, or a beneficiary with a disability and want to create a trust for their benefit, a notary can’t assist you. 

Wills Prepared By Lawyers

The best way to ensure that you have a valid Will that “covers all the bases” is to have it prepared by a lawyer.

A Will is a legal document, after all, and you and your estate beneficiaries are best protected by consulting with an estate lawyer to create a binding, legally valid Will. 

The cost of having a Will prepared by a lawyer depends on the individual lawyer and the amount of time required to complete your Will as part of the preparation of your estate plan. Most lawyers are willing to provide an estimate upon the client providing information about their circumstances and the services they require. You and your lawyer should discuss the estimated legal fees for the work to be done at the outset of the retainer.

A lawyer drafted Will can be more expensive, but you get what you pay for, as the expression goes. Estate lawyers have specialized knowledge of estate law, so they can create an estate plan, including a Will,  that efficiently and effectively achieves your estate planning goals. Here is a general overview of the process:

  • Your estate lawyer will meet with you to conduct a detailed review of your personal, financial, and family circumstances.
  • You and your lawyer will discuss your estate planning goals and wishes, and your lawyer will advise you of any risks or issues you may not have considered.
  • Your estate lawyer will then prepare your Will (and any other documents) with the necessary clauses to ensure your estate plan will operate as intended.
  • Your estate lawyer will oversee the proper execution of your Will (and any other documents).

An estate lawyer is uniquely positioned to provide you with individualized legal advice and to create an effective and efficient estate plan for you. Experienced and knowledgeable estate lawyers can advise you on ways to more efficiently transfer your estate assets on death, which may include minimizing estate expenses or taxes on death, and minimizing or avoiding the probate process and probate fees, if that is desired. These tactics can save time and money for your beneficiaries.

Factors that Influence the Cost of Making a Will in BC

Factors that Influence the Cost of Making a Will in BC

If your circumstances are relatively uncomplicated and your wishes fairly simple, preparing your Will as part of a broader estate plan should cost less than someone who has complex circumstances and/or unusual wishes. Complex circumstances or unusual wishes can lead to higher legal fees even though the resulting Will may be relatively simple. Some of the factors that may cause the cost of a Will to be higher include:

  • Blended families, second marriages, and other complex family situations;
  • Setting up special trusts or trusts for your spouse or children, for beneficiaries with a disability, or for beneficiaries who may not be able to handle an inheritance (due to drug or alcohol addiction, difficulties managing money, etc.);
  • Owning assets in multiple jurisdictions;
  • Being the beneficiary of a trust;
  • Owning private company shares, being a business owner, and other business considerations;
  • Complex instructions or calculations concerning the distribution of the estate;
  • Equalization concerns where beneficiaries will be receiving assets during your lifetime or outside of your estate on death (e.g., life insurance proceeds);
  • Motivation to minimize probate fees and taxes through consideration of trusts, jointure, beneficiary designations, and lifetime gifting;
  • Undergoing significant change in circumstances due to business, legal, personal, or financial issues;
  • Concerns about potential estate litigation on death; and
  • Appointing a professional trust company.

Bear in mind as well that a Will is typically only one part of a good estate plan, alongside other important documents such as a Power of Attorney and Representation Agreements. Some individuals may also have one or more trusts in place. Your lawyer will advise you on these and any other legal documents or structures needed to carry out your estate plan. You should expect that the cost of preparing a Will, Power of Attorney and Representation Agreement for health care will typically fall in the approximate range of $2,000.00 to $4,000.00 in legal fees. The fees are higher for a couple and where complex circumstances or wishes are present. There are also disbursements (out- of -pocket expenses, such as wills registration) and taxes (PST and GST) charged on top of legal fees.

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Making a Will

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Making a Will

Dying without a legal Will

When you die without a legal Will, you lose control over decisions such as who will handle your estate, who inherits from your estate and when, and who will step in to raise your minor children. The cost of administering your estate can also be higher and take longer if you die without a valid Will.

If you don’t have a Will in place, your estate will be divided according to the strict intestate succession laws in BC, and the administration of your estate will be carried out by a court-appointed administrator, who may be a family member.  

Tax and probate

A good estate plan—which includes a Will—can have tax benefits (such as income tax deferral when assets are paid to a spouse) and may minimize the impact of probate fees on your estate and your beneficiaries.  

Working with an accountant and an estate lawyer can help you understand which property is taxable and how taxes can be deferred. By obtaining advice from an estate lawyer, you may also be able to take advantage of certain legal mechanisms to avoid probate or probate fees on certain assets. Paying now for legal advice from a skilled estate lawyer (and tax advice from a tax professional, if needed) can save you and your loved ones a substantial amount of money in the long run. 

Estate Litigation

If you choose to prepare a Will without the involvement of a lawyer, it may result in an invalid or incomplete Will, which can lead to bitter disputes and the need for costly court applications after your death. The money you spend on a good estate lawyer can avoid the potential for estate litigation and save you and your family members many thousands of dollars and years of distress.  

Contact us for trusted estate planning advice

The estate lawyers at Onyx Law Group have extensive experience preparing Wills and estate plans for individuals and couples with both simple and complex estates.

Our lawyers can help you navigate the issues or concerns you have concerning your estate plan, such as issues related to the ownership of assets, setting up testamentary trusts for beneficiaries, and planning for estate taxes and fees.

Contact Onyx Law Group today for trusted legal advice and clear, effective strategies. We will work with you to decide on the best options to achieve your particular needs and goals.

Have questions about a topic?

Onyx Law Group represents clients in family law, estate and trust litigation, estate planning and probate matters. Consult with our experienced team at 
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