DIY Will Kits
The pitfalls of a DIY Will Kit
Wills are perhaps one of the most important legal documents one will ever sign. A will acts as an important reference for others about how you would like your assets divided up between your loved ones when you pass. So, what’s the best way to ensure your final wishes are heard? In this blog we look at DIY Will kits and why these can be cheap and risky solutions.
What is a DIY Will kit and why is it used?
When it comes to writing their Will, a DIY kit is an option we see many people turn to – often for financial and time reasons. It certainly can cost less than getting an attorney involved in the process, and the online interface or pre-prepared templates from a newsagent means that your Will can be finalised in just a matter of minutes.
While this may hold true for the situation today, unfortunately, DIY Will kits can often cause issues down the track which could cost your loved ones money, time and cause disputes regarding your assets.
A DIY Will kit guides you through listing your assets and how these will be divided up. However, without the legal guidance of a trained attorney, one of the most common pitfalls is that you could end up with a valid will that is legally binding but doesn’t achieve what you wanted it to.
Common mistakes of DIY Will kits
Without professional legal guidance and context of your individual situation, it’s easy for even the simplest of mistakes to be made. These mistakes can result in the Will being contested or mean it is invalid, which is often something your loved ones will need to challenge in the future. Even though it might be a little bit of extra time and money initially, you cannot underestimate the risks of an improperly made estate plan or power of attorney.
Some of the main disadvantages of DIY Will kits include:
- The instructions provided in Will Kits can be very confusing to a person who is not legally trained. This can lead to a poorly drafted Will which does not dispose of the entire estate, or refers to assets which do not actually form part of the Will Maker’s estate such as superannuation, company and trust assets;
- Inadequate consideration and provisions for your spouse and children, taxation, superannuation, appointment of Executors and Trustees and alternate distribution are not always sufficiently covered in most Will Kit instructions;
- Do not give custom advice to individual and family circumstances such as blended families; beneficiaries with disabilities; spendthrifts; unsavoury partners;
- Often incorrectly signed and witnessed which results in an invalid Will.
- People using the Will Kit will misunderstand the terminology used and can misinterpret the instructions, resulting in ambiguity and substantial costs and delay in administration of the estate (usually due to Court orders needed to clarify the terms of the Will);
- Fail to inform the Will maker of the strict legal formalities which must be adhered to when completing and signing the Will, resulting in difficulties and increased costs in the administration of the estate;
- Will Kits are generic and do not set out the different laws which can apply.
It is for these reasons that estate planners believe that DIY legal software programs for Wills and online sites are inadequate. While going to a lawyer can be expensive, not preparing for the worst may cause trouble for your family at an already emotional time.
As well as this, it is important people don’t just assume that once they have done their will, they can set it aside and forget about it. Circumstances in life change which can affect what was put into your will originally. This is where professional advice can assist you to update your Will based on your changing circumstances – such as a divorce.
Key tips for people looking to prepare their Will:
- DIY Will kits should be used only in the simplest of circumstances.
- Choose an executor carefully.
- Consider the impact of debt and tax on fairness.
- Don’t leave assets you don’t own.
- Don’t hide your will.
DIY Will Kit Alternatives
As you can see, there are a lot of issues with DIY Will kits – most people wouldn’t realise you may need special attention to make sure your will is legally valid, and your wishes are carried out. This rings particularly true when there are testamentary trusts, blended families and staged distributions to children, in which case, Wills are best handled by an experienced lawyer who can help you to navigate these potential issues. One of our experienced Wills and Estates Lawyers can help you to document your Last Will, customising it to your own personal estate planning requirements and instructions. Our care throughout the drafting and execution will save your family a lot of trouble and avoid paying out thousands of dollars in legal costs later down the track and support you at every stage of your life cycle.