Many of our Wills clients approach us with one single most common phrase: “I just need a simple Will. How much would that be?” However, as many of my colleagues may attest, there is no such thing as a “simple Will”. While family dynamics may vary from home to home, yes - some situations may require a more or less straight-forward approach. Still, most of the family situations require advanced discussions and analysis of people’s family dynamics, their assets and liabilities, and even their goals and dreams, which may affect the way they should properly plan their estate distribution.
I’m still amazed by how people invest so much time and resources into their financial planning, by researching and planning extensively where and how to invest their money, but when they approach estate planning, they’re just looking for a simple “pill” that would give them peace of mind for the time being. Even if having a “home-made” Will prepared could give you some apparent peace of mind, a Will prepared without a proper estate analysis won’t provide you with a bullet-proof estate plan that could cover all the bases. In order to make sure that all your “ducks” are in a row, your estate plan should involve a wholistic approach (from a legal, accounting, investing, tax and family relationships points of view).
As a good homemade meal requires considerably more time for preparation than your favourite fast-food, similarly, a proper estate plan requires some intentional planning from both the clients and the practitioner rather than a simplistic Will made after a 15 minutes meeting over the phone or vide-conference. For example, when I’m working on an estate plan, I tend to spend at least 30 minutes with my clients so I can understand their values, aspirations, family status, financial situation, etc., even before discussing any details regarding their Wills instructions.
Also, in order to make sure that our clients’ estate plans align with all other aspects of their life, we often collaborate and working in tandem with their other professionals, such as their accountants, financial planners, tax advisors, etc. This way, our final product is a custom-made and comprehensive estate plan, which would ultimately accomplish all their estate planning goals, such as protecting their estate from any legal battles, saving taxes, or even mending their struggling family relationships.
I’m very passionate about solving challenging estate puzzles, and honestly, I rarely find an estate plan being a one-piece puzzle solved by just making a Will. So, instead of seeing Will-making as a one-time simple solution to all the estate planning situations, I see estate planning as a very beautiful and diverse puzzle, where the Will and Powers of Attorney are just pieces of the big picture that is comprised of various day-to-day decisions, such as how they get registered on the title of their home. But that’s another big topic, which I’ll leave for another time.