Understanding the FormalWill rating

FormalWill.ca has been in business since 2010, so they have more than a decade of experience in providing Will writing services to Canadians. They sell packages through retail stores like Staples as well as on Amazon, but you can also buy directly online. The service is simple, but not particularly slick.

What we like

We are impressed by the longevity of FormalWill, and the fact that it was founded by a Canadian lawyer. The options and capabilities are straightforward and you can prepare a Will quickly with the service.

What needs work

The website hasn't changed much since 2010, nor have the capabilities within the service. So although it was founded by a lawyer, the company gives the impression that it is small without a dedicated development team. There is a lack of software intelligence within the service and the look and feel of the website feels quite dated in 2021.

Writing a Will at FormalWill.ca

Will writing software is often compared to tax preparation software: the service guides you through the process by asking a series of questions, and your final document is compiled based on the answers to your questions. But FormalWill has the least intelligence within the service. It appears that everybody is presented with a very similar set of questions no matter how the questions are answered.

For example, even though I stepped through the service identifying myself as single, the service presented an option to leave 100 percent of my estate to my spouse but explained that this option is not available to me. The design just seems to be less polished than the likes of LegalWills.ca, Epilogue and Willful.

FormalWill.ca Beneficiaries

The service at FormalWill makes things simple by limiting options. For example, when selecting an Executor, you are allowed one first choice and up to two alternates. This will work for many people but not for anybody who wants to allow their children to work as joint Executors, or joint alternates.

FormalWill.ca Executors

I think where we see the greatest restrictions and the results of ten year old software implementation is with the distribution plan and the backup distribution plan.

It is not uncommon for somebody to have a first-choice beneficiary who receives everything, but then has a much more complicated plan if their first choice beneficiary does not survive them. FormalWill does not provide the kind of flexibility to create a detailed plan, or, if it does, it's extremely difficult to figure it out on their one-page form.

FormalWill.ca Distribution
FormalWill.ca Main Beneficiaries

We also felt that some of the options presented to us were simply not practical. For example, creating a trust for a child that is in place until they turn 50 years of age.

FormalWill.ca Trusts

Pricing and Packages at FormalWill.ca

The Will service at FormalWill.ca starts at $59, the Financial PoA and Healthcare PoA are $39 each. However, FormalWill are unique in limiting the number of times that a document can be changed through their "peace of mind bonuses". So if you have second thoughts about your Will, or need to make a change, you would have had to have purchased a "peace of mind bonus" allowing just one change to the Will for $9.99 or 2 changes to the Will for $14.99.

This is something more aligned with visiting a lawyer to prepare a Will, but seems a little stingy for an online Will writing service.

FormalWill.ca Peace of Mind Bonus

Another disappointingly unique aspect of the Will service at FormalWill is that you are never allowed to preview the final document without paying for it. So it is difficult to judge the quality of the final document without committing to buy.

Complementary services at FormalWill.ca

As with all online Will service providers, FormalWill.ca also offer financial a Power of Attorney and Power of Attorney for Health Care (Living Will) service. They are unique in providing a "Pet Will" for an extra $59. All of the other online service providers we reviewed include a pet trust withing their main Will service.

FormalWill also provide a service to have a lawyer review your documents - $249 for a Will, or $149 for the PoA or Living Will. However, the service does give you a one hour legal consultation with a lawyer, not just a review of the Will, so it could actually be good value.

Customer support at FormalWill.ca

FormalWill.ca provide email, phone and intermittent live chat support through their website. The quality of the support is good and the live chat is available on a reasonably consistent basis. As with all of the online service providers we reviewed, there is no charge for any support questions.

Customer reviews

This is an area that FormalWill.ca really needs to improve. Other service providers are using Google, Facebook, Trustpilot and even BBB review systems. But there are very few independent customer reviews of FormalWill. There are absolutely no Google Reviews, no Trustpilot reviews, no BBB reviews, and they do not collect or allow reviews on Facebook. The only rating is their 3.8 stars out of 5 on Amazon.

Overall experience

Ten years ago, FormalWill.ca offered a solid online Will writing service using user interface technology that was decent for the time. But now, the interface looks dated, and some of the form filling interactions are a little clumsy. There is less intelligence in the flow of the software than with some of the other service providers, and very little has evolved in the service over the last decade. The pricing is mid to low range (with a caveat over the "peace of mind bonus" option), and the company was founded by a lawyer. But today, there is little to draw us to FormalWill over the other service providers.