Wal-Mart has enhanced its status as a destination for one-stop shopping with the recent addition of personalized wills, available at a cost of $99. Three Wal-Mart locations in the Greater Toronto Area now offer estate planning services through the law firm of Axess Law.
Wal-Mart and other retailers had previously sold will-drafting kits, which allow customers to follow instructions in creating their own estate plan. Wills prepared using a kit remain subject to the same formal requirements as wills prepared by a drafting solicitor, and there is a high risk that the end product of a will kit may either fail to accurately reflect the testator’s intentions or be partially or completely invalid. Such kits are typically priced at $40-$60. While this discount may motivate some individuals to prepare their own wills rather than attend an established estate planner at a significantly greater cost, the availability of legal assistance in drafting a simple will for $99 is proving to be a popular option for many Wal-Mart customers.
In establishing mental capacity and ensuring absence of undue influence, multiple meetings of a lawyer with estate planning clients is often preferable. Especially when litigation follows the death of the testator, solicitor records may represent important evidence. Where thorough notes from multiple meetings are available, they have greater potential to support findings of due execution and testamentary capacity.
While a Wal-Mart will may sound like a “good deal”, which may be a preferable option to the purchase and unassisted use of estate planning kits or forms, one-stop estate planning at Wal-Mart may prove to be problematic, should these wills be challenged at some point in the future. Only time will tell.
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