Avoiding the horrors of the 'do-it-yourself' Will

Distressed and angry relatives, horrendous tax implications, additional unnecessary legal costs and unintended distribution of an estate – all these could be the unintended reality for those looking for a “quick fix” home-made will.

The effects on a family can be devastating, with the wishes of the deceased being totally swept aside in some circumstances.

Whilst some marketing material with these kits claims a person can make their will in 15 or 20 minutes on a couple of sheets of A4 paper, for the majority of cases, it is virtually impossible for anyone to adequately sum up all their estate requirements in such a brief fashion.

People should seek professional legal advice when preparing their will.

Whilst the intention behind do-it-yourself will kits may seem sound, they simply do not allow for increasing complexity in people’s lives, estates and family situations.  This is even before specialised issues such as tax and asset protection are considered.

The initial cost savings of a do-it-yourself will kit can quickly be dwarfed by legal costs resulting from an ill-prepared will including from a family dispute or problems in the estate administration process (where additional documentation may be needed to address any inadequacies).

Some of the issues include:

  • Wills incorrectly signed or witnessed
  • Property or belongings left out of the will, leading to confusion over who gets what
  • Wills that don’t take into consideration the individual financial or tax circumstances of beneficiaries
  • Ambiguity or confusion in the wording, leaving the wishes of the deceased open to misinterpretation
  • Children or other beneficiaries being left out of the will
  • Wills that incorrectly deal with or fail to consider superannuation (in light of binding nominations or the lack thereof, for example)

Some omissions in a do-it-yourself will – such as signatures or not complying with witnessing requirements – can lead to significant extra work and cost in the estate administration process (at best) or the will being declared invalid (at worst).

If a will is invalid and governed by intestacy laws, the wishes of the deceased can then effectively be ignored, with state intestacy legislation having a set manner governing how a deceased’s estate is divided.

Please contact one of our Estate Planning experts to discuss any of your estate planning needs.

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