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Just ahead of the pandemic arriving in Canada earlier this year, a poll by the Angus Reid Institute indicated that 51 per cent of people don’t have a will in place. The scare thrown into us by COVID-19 certainly reduced that number. But if we consider people who have an outdated will, we’re almost certainly left with a minority of people who have properly looked after this exceedingly important aspect of financial planning.

If you have dependents and assets, don’t you want a say on what happens to them if you die? Wills are about providing an orderly plan for those you love. It’s an unselfish, adult act to get one.

But how? You very likely don’t want to go to a lawyer’s office right now and, even if you could, there are costs that could range from roughly $800 to several thousand dollars. Solution: An online will kit.

I used to look down on will kits as an inferior way to attend to an extremely important, detail dependent task. But the selection of online will kits has developed to a point where they can serve the needs of people with basic requirements.

The latest online will kit is Epilogue, created by tax and estate planning lawyers Daniel Goldgut and Arin Klug and available now in Ontario (Alberta and B.C. will be added in the next two months and other provinces after that). “We built Epilogue with a lawyer’s mentality,” Mr. Goldgut said. “Any feature we put into the product, the first question we ask ourselves is, ‘what could go wrong?’”

Mr. Goldgut said Epilogue is designed for what he called a “super-basic will,” which means those where the user is leaving assets to a spouse or evenly splitting assets among children. For more complex stuff like blended families or unequal bequests to children, he suggests consulting a lawyer to lock down the details.

If you’ve already thought about questions like who your beneficiaries will be and who will look after your young children if you die, then the Epilogue guys figure it might take you 20 minutes to work through their software. You pay at the end – a single pays $179 for a will and powers of attorney, while a couple pays $289 for the same package.

Print your will, then get two people who have no financial interest in your estate to witness you signing it. There, a big hole in your financial planning fixed by end of day.

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Rob’s personal finance reading list

More on wills

There are a bunch of other online will kits available, including Willful, Legal Wills Canada and CanadaWills. Here are some reviews of these products and more:

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Ask Rob

Q: Recently I have been approached to buy Scotch whisky that is maturing in casks in Scotland. Is this a good investment? They say that the value doubles every two years. The purchase price includes storage in government-bonded warehouses.

A: An investment? Hmm. Investments need some degree of liquidity, no pun intended. You should be able to buy and sell with ease, when you need to. Also, a proper investment is subject to regulatory oversight on what can be said in a sales pitch and what level of disclosure must be provided in terms of fees and returns. I’d call this venture a bit of fun that could be a financial win – or not. Let me know if you hear of any opportunities to buy bourbon casks.

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can’t answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

Tweet of the week

A personal finance writer who goes by the name Peerless Money asked recently: “What are some of your controversial personal finance beliefs?” Lots of interesting responses.

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