I’ve been trying to educate people for years that trying to DIY the most important legal document in your life is a really bad idea.
Wills and estates are specialised areas of law, and when you don’t know what you’re doing, it is very easy to make critical errors trying to do this yourself.
Any mistakes you make won’t become apparent until you die, and it’s too late for you to fix them, so it will be your family who has the stress and cost of dealing with it all.
Here is a quick summary of just some of the errors I have seen in DIY Wills – in the last 6 months alone!
- A gift was left to a person in the Will who was already known to be dead at the time. Worse, it was a specific gift with no substitution clause, so there was an automatic partial intestacy.
- The Will was witnessed properly … but the testator did not sign! This means that the Will is not valid. Either an application for letters of administration to deal with an intestacy will be required, or alternatively an application to admit the unsigned Will to probate will be required – both a lot more time-consuming and expensive than the family would like.
- The Will was signed with a full signature on the final page, but with a different (abbreviated) signature (initials and last name) on the preceding pages. Extra expense to create an affidavit of due execution from one of the attesting witnesses is required.
- The Will was witnessed by the 2 sons who were beneficiaries named in the Will. While this does not necessarily invalidate the Will in South Australia at present, it is a very bad idea on general principle. If any claimant or creditor were to make a claim against this estate, it would be very easy for them to claim that the sons had exercised undue influence over the testator, to benefit themselves at the expense of other potential beneficiaries.
- The wrong attestation clause was used, which did not comply with South Australian formalities. The Will is invalid, and a special application is required – at additional expense – to attempt to persuade the Court to accept it for probate.
- The testator had tried to amend the Will by crossing out one word in the Will, but the amendment was not properly (or at all) witnessed. A special application to the Court, supported by additional evidence and affidavits – at substantial extra expense – is required.
- The original Will could not be located – only a copy. This means that the simple administrative form of probate known as ‘common form’ cannot be used. A lot of extra expense must be incurred to attempt convince the Court to allow the copy Will to be admitted to probate.
- A specific gift was left in the Will, but that particular asset had already been sold prior to the death of the testator. This is known as ademption, and the gift failed, meaning that this beneficiary missed out.
- A Will had bite marks from a pet dog. It cost a lot extra to explain to the Court what had happened, and that the holes were not codicils or other attachments to the Will which had been improperly removed.
- The Will was made before the testator got married. She did not realise that marriage automatically revokes all previous Wills (with only rare exceptions).
These are just a few of the most recent examples of critical errors in home-made Wills I have seen in my legal practice in the last 6 months.
There are many more examples out there! Be warned!
If those mistakes weren’t enough, you should also consider that a Will alone is not the only document you need for an estate plan.
Without an Advance Care Directive, power of attorney, trust, or guardianship you may not be providing for your family as you intend.
Contact us to learn more about retirement planning, superannuation, estate-planning and estate-administration solutions, by visiting our website today and schedule a free no obligation telephone consultation to find out how we can help you and yours.
Remember – any mistakes you make in your Will won’t become apparent until after you’re dead, and it’s too late for you to fix them. Get proper advice, and do it right.
It is also vitally important that you keep your Will and estate plan up to date – it is not a set-and-forget exercise.
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SPECIAL REPORT “7 Things You Must Know Before You Make Your Will”
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The Most Common Estate Planning Mistakes, how they can cost your family a fortune, and How to Avoid Them.
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