This is the first in a series of posts where I’ll be chatting with some of the best personal finance products and services available to Canadians.
A big thanks to Erin Bury, Co-founder and CEO of Willful, for her time.
Willful is a Canadian Online Wills provider with a mission “to help people create the legal documents they need to protect and provide for their loved ones.”
Below, you’ll learn about Willful, why you need to get a Will and power of attorney, developments in the Online Wills space in Canada and more.
Chat with Erin Bury, CEO of Willful
WalletBliss: Thanks for taking time out to do this. To start with, what is Willful?
Erin Bury: Willful is a digital estate planning platform that makes it easy, affordable, and convenient to create a will and power of attorney documents online.
Our mission is to use technology to help Canadians prepare for and deal with death, and to ensure that every Canadian family is protected with a solid estate plan.
Since launching, we’ve helped tens of thousands of Canadians in 8 provinces create their legal documents, and we have hundreds of five-star reviews.
I know I’m biased, but I think Willful has the most user-friendly, educational experience of any online will platform in Canada.
Traditionally the estate planning process has been very paper-based and expensive, and our goal is to make creating a will as simple as booking an Airbnb, or ordering an Uber.
WalletBliss: You’ll be celebrating your fourth-year anniversary by October 2021. How has the journey been?
Erin Bury: Building a company is always hard, but we’ve been fortunate that we’ve had more ups than downs along the way.
My husband and I started Willful after Kevin’s Uncle passed away, and we saw the stress that a lack of pre-planning can put on the surviving family members.
I love the fact that every time someone buys a will on our platform, they’ve taken steps to cut down on the burden when they pass away. What we’re really selling is peace of mind!
From a corporate perspective, we’ve achieved some really great milestones.
We’ve raised about $1.6 million in capital; partnered with great brands like Allstate Insurance; and launched a fully bilingual platform in Quebec.
What we’re really selling is peace of mind!Erin Bury
WalletBliss: Like life insurance, many Canadians don’t think they need a Will. What are the common reasons and misconceptions for this?
Erin Bury: Our research conducted by AngusReid found that 57% of Canadian adults don’t have a will, and that number jumps to 89% for people under 35.
That’s a whopping 16 million people who doesn’t have a will – when arguably everyone over the age of majority who has any assets or dependents (children/pets/spouse) should have this important legal document.
Common myths we hear are “I don’t need a will, I’m not old or rich!”. If you have assets of any size, you want to ensure they go to the right person.
Plus a Will isn’t just about your assets – it appoints an executor to wrap up your estate, and someone to take care of children or pets, and if you don’t have one it adds a lot of time, expense, and stress to your family.
We also often hear “I don’t need a will, my assets will just go to my spouse/kids/parents anyway”. Unfortunately, this is actually not true.
The reality is that there’s a government formula in each province that dictates how your assets will be distributed, and 9 times out of 10 it doesn’t match what you would actually want.
WalletBliss: What are some life events that should prompt Canadians to get a Will?
Erin Bury: The most common life event that causes people to prioritize getting a will is having a child, since people want to appoint a guardian for their care, and ensure they are listed as a beneficiary for the estate.
Other common events include:
- buying a home or other large asset
- getting a pet
- getting married or divorced (no one wants their ex to get their $$!); and
- going through the death of a loved one
WalletBliss: What makes Willful better than the other online wills platforms?
Erin Bury: Canadians are lucky to have lots of choice when it comes to creating a will, and ultimately our goal is to ensure you make a will, regardless of which method or platform you choose.
We think Willful is a great choice because we have estate law firm partners in each province, and we ensure our provincial documents are always up to date with local legislation.
We also offer free updates, so you can update your will as your life changes.
There’s also a comprehensive education centre and customer service via phone, live chat, and email, so we’re there to support you as you create or update your documents.
WalletBliss: The Willful software caters to the need of most Canadians, but you advise those with complex estates to consult a lawyer. What are some of those situations?
Erin Bury: We like to describe Willful as the TurboTax of estate planning, and just like TurboTax we’re focused on Canadians with simple financial & life situations.
If you have complex taxes, you might visit an accountant to get your taxes done, and this is similar – if you have complexity to your situation you may need to or want to visit a lawyer.
Situations that add complexity include
- owning assets in other countries and needing multiple wills in each jurisdiction,
- creating complex trusts including spousal trusts,
- having a child or dependent with a disability; or
- owning a business and requiring a dual will for business assets.
But ultimately many people choose to use a lawyer because they want custom legal advice, and that’s a very valid reason.
At Willful we can offer legal information, but we can’t provide legal advice to our customers.
WalletBliss: I would think that young people, who are more likely to use an online tool like Willful are also the same demographic less likely to think about getting a Will. Do you find this to be true?
Erin Bury: Our AngusReid research shows that the older you are, the more likely you are to have a will.
This makes sense, since as you approach retirement you are more likely to have lost a loved one and understand the importance of proper planning.
So you’re more likely to spend time on end-of-life planning.
Our average customer age is 43, so we’ve always had customers across a range of demographics.
Our core customers today are between 25-45, since that’s the audience who is most likely to be a new parent, but we saw our average customer age rise during COVID-19 as more people who may have traditionally visited a lawyer turned to online tools instead in order to avoid in-person appointments.
WalletBliss: Ontario has made virtual witnessing permanent through Bill 245 that was introduced earlier in the year. There’s also Bill 21 from BC that would make electronic signing and digital storage of wills legal in the province. How big of a deal are these Bills for the online Will providers and Canadians? Do you see other provinces passing similar Bills?
Erin Bury: I can’t overstate how excited I am to see these types of legal advancements that bring us one step closer to truly end-to-end digital wills.
Right now, no province allows for electronic signatures on wills, or online storage of wills – meaning you have to print your will and sign it in person in front of witnesses.
This became so prohibitive during COVID-19, when we were encouraged to avoid contact with other households, and many Canadians lost access to a printer at their office.
Many U.S. states like Florida allow digital wills, so it’s great to see BC following suit.
While this hasn’t come into effect yet, when it goes it means that BC residents will be able to complete, sign, and store their wills online – which seems like common sense in 2021!
Other provinces like Ontario have taken a much more cautious approach, so it’s been disappointing to see the slow pace of change.
Ultimately though digital-savvy consumers are going to demand change – after all, what other process requires physical signatures in 2021?
WalletBliss: Willful is currently available to BC residents, but it was also recently accepted into the BC Law Society’s innovation sandbox. What’s the idea behind the initiative and what does it mean for online wills in BC?
Erin Bury: My husband and I are not estate lawyers, and instead we took the approach of partnering with estate law firms across the country.
This means that we’ve always been outsiders to provincial law societies and bar associations – even though we have a similar goal of improving access to justice for Canadians.
It’s very tough for legal tech companies like ours to get recognition, support, or approval from traditional legal regulatory bodies, so it’s been great to see the development of the Innovation Sandbox.
The goal of this program is to endorse and support projects that are improving access to justice for BC residents.
We’re excited to be part of this program, and to roll out digital wills to local residents with the support of the Law Society.
WalletBliss: Thanks again for your time, Erin. Anything else you would like to add?
Erin Bury: While a will is extremely important, I would be remiss to not mention the importance of power of attorney documents.
A will outlines what happens when you pass away, while a power of attorney document appoints someone to make medical or financial decisions in the event that you’re injured or incapacitated.
I know, not fun to think about – but it’s important!
During COVID-19 we heard from doctors and nurses about how important these documents are in an emergency, and you can easily create them alongside your will on Willful.
Willful Plans & Pricing
There are currently 3 plans available on the Willful platform: 2 Individual plans and a family plan.
- Essentials – $99: This plan gets you a last Will and testament.
- Premium – $149: Includes 3 documents: Will and last testament, power of attorney for health (living Will) and power of attorney for finance and property
- Family – $250: Provides the same 3 documents available under the Premium plan to 2 adults – a discount of $50 compared to buying individual plans
All the plans come with free lifetime updates, so you can make changes as your life changes.
Getting started with Willful is simple and straightforward. You’ll be guided along the
You can 15% off using this link and entering the Willful promo code: WALLETBLISS at check-out.
And if you have any questions, you can use the live chat feature or book a call with their support team.