Over half of Canadians don't have wills, but the Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia wants to cut that number in this province by introducing a new app in the coming weeks to help people sort out their estates.
Society executive director Heather De Berdt Romilly said the app includes a 12-step process. It aims to cut through the discomfort many feel about planning for death and help them understand it is basic "cradle to grave" financial planning.
Romilly said reasons for not having a will range from a reluctance to think about death, to not having time to make a plan, to not being able to afford a lawyer.
What happens when there's no will
Having a lawyer's assistance drafting a will could cost roughly $600 to $800, she said. But the consequences of not having a will can be serious.
"People don't understand that we have very out of date, antiquated legislation that kicks in [in Nova Scotia]," she told CBC's Information Morning.
In Nova Scotia, if someone dies without a will, the province decides how their assets will be divided. This situation becomes especially complicated in the case of blended families or common-law spouses.
Romilly said she hopes the free app, which was developed in partnership with volunteer support from the information technology team at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, will address some of these issues.
The online platform takes users through a 12-step process that helps them gather the information they need to prepare a will. The next phase will allow users to upload personal information so lawyers can help them create a will, even at a distance.
"I think the most exciting thing about this is that people in remote locations where they can't travel to a lawyer, they can be served and a lawyer can set it up, that remotely everything can be done without the people necessarily having to be in the same room together," Romilly said.
She said she hopes lawyers will see the app as a positive step, insofar as it allows them to work more efficiently while also assisting clients in more isolated communities.
By reducing the amount of work required of a lawyer, Romilly said the app could make legal assistance cheaper, and more accessible, to prospective clients.
Set to launch in coming weeks
Future versions of the app will also include assistance around power of attorney and personal health-care directives.
The initial phase of the app is set to launch in the coming weeks; when it does, Romilly said it will be the first of its kind in Canada to be launched without project funding.
Both British Columbia and Ontario have online will systems, but those were created with taxpayers money, she said. They also deal with simple wills only, she said, while Nova Scotia's aims to tackle complicated ones as well.