I recently chatted with some friends on a zoom call when they mentioned that their estate documents were sitting on their “to-do” list. They had been delaying updating them for a while. With the Covid threat, it was dawning on them that they needed to get on it. The question lingering was would Covid provide the impetus to get it done, while also interfere with the process? Was there a way that they could easily start organizing and preparing what needed to be done? What about the need for witnesses? I have found two online solutions that you can utilize together to get going on your estate planning and perhaps wrap it up in a zoom call with your lawyer.
The Globe and Mail reported on April 2, 2020 that “Lawyers in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta, all provinces that have been hard-hit by the spread of COVID-19, say they have seen a spike in recent weeks in requests for new or updated wills, along with related documents such as powers of attorney.”
In the Globe article they discussed the issue surrounding what constitutes a legal signature in the time of isolation and limited ability to have anything but a virtual witness to signatures. Given that we are often in isolation alone or with others who have an interest in the agreement, we may not have an ability to secure a witness as required by Estate law.
On April 7th, 2020, in Ontario an emergency order was made under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to permit the virtual witnessing of wills and powers of attorney over audio-visual communication technology during Ontario’s state of emergency. If the will is witnessed virtually, one of the witnesses must be a licensee of the Law Society of Ontario at the time of the signing. The order is not retroactive and does not allow e-signatures and will be revoked May 6, 2020 unless it is extended.
Other provinces have passed similar measures, so be sure to check on this with your lawyer before you decide not to update your documents based on your understanding of the need for witnesses.
Step by Step
The key in any undertaking is to get organized first. Putting your estate management efforts in order is no different. For Canadians, Quick Estate offers Quick Estate Organizer which is a tool to help with organizing estate documents and details. Quick Estate also offers the QE Estate Executor to help those you name as your executor.
QE Estate Organizer contains three sections:
The contacts section allows you to list all of contacts important to the settling of your estate: beneficiaries, professional advisors, and emergency contacts. If you have ever settled anyone’s estate, you recognize that a list such as this would be very helpful in knowing who to contact for the issue at hand.
The documents section is a documents inventory, listing important details of important documents, including their location, the date they were signed, and any other people involved with the matter covered by the document. Note you do not upload these confidential documents to Quick Estate, so the amount of personal data actually contained in the app is somewhat limited.
The inventory section provides a picture of your financial situation, and includes assets, liabilities, ownership details (i.e. whether you are a sole owner, joint owner, or other), life insurance policies, and income streams. The most recent market value on the assets as well as the date of this value is also requested.
This toolkit lists the tasks that need to be done at each stage of the estate settlement process, and guides you through them. The steps outlined include:
- Arranging the funeral
- An inventory
- Get probate
- Manage the estate
- Pay taxes
Each step along the way involves other steps, explanations through a Quick Start pop up features, and suggestions for how to do things. For example, do not just obtain one copy of the death certificate from the funeral home. You will need a few. The whole process helps you keep track of where you are at and helps you ensure that you comply with your legal responsibility to pay the debts and protect the assets until the distribution stage.
The tool is easy to use, designed pleasantly and with a chatbot to guide you through your questions. Sign up is easy, sending a confirmation email to access your account for the first time. Their privacy and security page indicate that they have all the necessary procedures and encryptions in place to ensure your data is safe.
Pricing and Payment
Quick Estate has embedded Stripe into their platform for you to feel secure about your payment. A free version of both Organizer and Executor offer a peak into how the platform works and looks, but really does not provide enough access to allow anyone to use the product in a meaningful way. This makes sense for both the consumer, they get to check it out before buying, test driving it so to speak, and Quick Estate maximizes their chance to gain a paying client.
Once you try out either offering, are ready buy, you will be happy to know that the pricing is quite reasonable. At $99 for the Organizer, you are possibly saved hours of work creating your own spreadsheets to house your information. The Executor is only $499. Bought together, the total price is $549, and the data from organizer populates executor which streamlines the process. You can also allow your advisors access through the secure platform. Given that Quick Estate could quickly save your estate hours of professional executor fees, the cost is well worth it.
Quick Estate knows that people are thinking about estate issues right now, and that they have time to work these issues out. They are offering a 50% family and friends discount if you sign up before May 31, 2020. At $49.50 + tax, the Complete Estate Organizer starts you off in the right direction. If you’ve been named executor for a loved one, get a head start with the Complete Estate Executor Toolkit, for $249.50 + tax, often less than 1 hour of a lawyer’s time.
Go to Quick Estate, Buy Now, Sign Up for the Complete version and enter promo code: Friends2020 on the payment page.
Do You Know if You are Prepared?
Quick Estate has a list of ten questions for you to answer to decide for yourself where you are in the process. Start there.
What if you do not have a will? Willful is an online platform that will work great in tandem with Quick Estate. Willful is working with a team of estate lawyers to ensure that their platform will be robust. For now, it is suited to those with a simple estate. Thankfully they have detailed situations that Willful does not currently support, so check that out before you start inputting your personal data which you are required to do when you click the Get Started button.
Willful has three levels of service offerings.
At $99, Essentials allows you to create one document: your Last Will and Testament.
For $149 you can access the Premium package which Willful states is their most popular. This option allows you to create three documents: your Last Will and Testament, a Power of Attorney for Emergency (finance and property) and your Healthcare Emergency Representative & Wishes.
The last package is priced at $249 and allows six documents to be prepared. The documents are those listed for the premium option, but times two, one for each member of the couple.
Willful has done a great job creating a Learn Centre that includes a series of informative estate documents that create their “Estate Planning 101”. An estate glossary enables anyone to become familiar with estate jargon and best practises. Consideration of your pets is even discussed. They have popular guides and tutorials, a newsletter you can sign up for and a number to call if you have questions. The only thing lacking may be an online form to submit questions, but perhaps this is coming soon.
During the Covid crisis there is no excuse to leave your estate matters lingering on your nagging “to-do” list. Online tools such as Quick Estate and Willful, temporary laws combined with modern technology, and some focus can get you organized in no time. Do not wait any longer.