A CIBC survey found that an online solution would be the most helpful for completing a will
With the legal industry’s transition to hybrid and remote work and provinces like British Columbia allowing digital wills, the electronic estate planning platform, Willful, continues to grow across Canada and has announced a new partnership with CIBC to help 55 percent of Canadians without a will.
“Wills are paper-based, and getting together with witnesses and printing out documents became difficult in COVID,” says Erin Bury, Willful’s CEO and co-founder.
A new CIBC survey of over 1,500 Canadians found that only 18 percent of Canadians 18-34 have a will compared to 78 percent of Canadians 55 and above. Moreover, 12 percent say their will is outdated for those with a will, and 14 percent updated their will in the last year.
The survey revealed that 43 percent of Canadians said a digital solution would be the most helpful thing to get their will completed and 24 percent without a will said costs were the main reason. In addition, it found that 29 percent of Canadians without a will said their financial situation does not require a will which means education about how every adult should have a will is critical, says Bury. “It’s not just about your finances; it appoints guardians for children, pets and an executor to wrap up your estate.”
The survey also revealed that under a third of Canadians have power of attorney (POA) documents, with 28 percent having a healthcare POA and 26 having a finance POA.
“CIBC prioritizes a full financial plan for their customers, and a will is a core part of that. But customers with simple life situations and prefer online tools didn’t have an offering, so that’s where Willful came in,” Bury says.
Through CIBC’s partnership with Willful, she says clients can access discounted digital estate planning tools without being overwhelmed by costs or the idea of visiting a lawyer.
All documents are written by estate lawyers and reviewed regularly, but Bury says the customer essentially creates their legal documents and is not getting legal advice. However, the company refers people to lawyers when the situation is complex.
“We partner with the estate lawyers in each of our active provinces, and customers go through a series of questions on our platform, and we tailor our documents to their life situations.”
The number of Canadians under 34 with wills below 20 percent suggests that younger people are less likely to prioritize estate planning. However, COVID revealed that the unexpected could happen anytime, so education is a massive focus of the partnership with CIBC, Bury says.
She says most people often think about a will because of the loss of a loved one, but Willful’s goal is to educate people earlier and empower them to get a will done, regardless of their health.
“How can we educate Canadians about what happens if they pass away without a will, about the power of attorney documents and how important they are in case of a medical emergency, and how you go through the process of creating your will and the critical decisions you need to make?” she asks. “Because wills are not something we talk about at the dinner table or learn about in school.”
Bury says Willful has worked with CIBC to develop a series of educational content and warnings to ensure people know when a digital will platform like Willful would be a good fit and when they should visit a lawyer.
“Teaching people about wills is our goal, but we don’t always have the opportunity, which is why this partnership is so great because CIBC has a database of millions of Canadians, who probably need wills, and already trust CIBC for their financial planning and banking needs.”
Furthermore, Willful has partnered with Allstate Insurance and Arbor Memorial funeral homes to empower Canadians and provide better awareness on how to plan their estates. The company was on the previous season of Dragon’s Den and successfully got a TV commercial deal which aired in BC. Bury says it would expand across the country to convey the message to Canadians.
Willful is also part of the Law Society of British Columbia’s innovation sandbox program, which aims to bridge the gap between legal technology companies and traditional lawyers and law firms, says Bury.
“We were the first online provider in that program and executed the first digital will in Canadian history as soon as it became legal in BC.”
Bury says laws are changing across Canada to make it easier to create a will online and hopes Ontario will follow, as it is the largest province. “I’m hopeful that all provinces will allow digital wills soon.”