- Write your own Will. Use one of those cheap kits from the post office. The cheaper the better – why waste money on expensive stationery?
- Even better, download something from the interweb, preferably from another country. Try to get something that doesn’t have any creation date on it –it won’t be hard – that way you can be pretty sure that your Will won’t comply with local laws here and now.
- Don’t pay for professional legal advice. Just do it yourself. Type up (or better yet handwrite in a shaky hand) your own Will. Just in case, write up several Wills all on the same day – each slightly different.
- Make your gift to your daughter conditional upon her divorcing her loser husband. Put your son’s legacy in trust for 50 years, unless he completes 6 years in the army. Tell your wife that she can only keep the house as long as she never even thinks about another man AND never again speaks to her interfering busy-body mother.
- When writing your Will, talk about the assets in incredible detail – down to the serial number on your television. Then forget to keep track of those assets throughout your lifetime. Sell some, give some away, and junk some. It will be good for a laugh as you look up from Purgatory at your family trying to work out which assets are actually part of your estate, and who is to get what.
- Also, don’t bother trying to distinguish between your own assets outright, compared with assets that you might own jointly with someone else, or assets that are owned in a trust or company. Just treat them all the same.
- Try not to talk about your testamentary wishes with your family. After all they won’t get anything until after you’re dead, so they can jolly well wait until then.
- Be as secretive as possible with your own family, especially about your financial affairs. Don’t talk about what you are planning to do. Passively encourage your spouse and kids to assume they know what you want. Leave it vague enough so no one really knows.
- If your family insist upon talking with you about your Will (the nosey blighters!), talk in vague terms about your intentions – never get pinned down to specifics. Say things like: “you will be taken care of” and “you won’t want for anything” and “you will all be treated fairly.” This way, whomever you’re talking to at the time can form their own views & assumptions about your intentions.
- Make vague promises to remember people in your Will. You can work them into idle conversation with strangers at the bus stop or while waiting in the checkout line at the supermarket. Then don’t do it that way in your Will. In fact, put a clause in your Will that they get nothing if they try to challenge your Will in Court. This is good for relatives too.
- Find as many beneficiary forms online as you can – most insurance & super companies have a download section on their website. Try customising a few of them yourself without knowing the law, to add some special conditions to the gift. Use your imagination. Be creative.
- Insist that your executors don’t take professional legal advice to assist in the administration of your deceased estate. After all, a professional will know how to get the job done and make sure that your wishes are carried out in a way that’s legal and proper. Much better to leave it to friends or family members who may not exactly know what they’re doing, incurring extra taxes or making messes that need to be cleaned up later.
- Think of your Will as a growth-opportunity for your family to learn to get along better. Create your plan in a way that creates conflict among your loved ones. Try naming an ex-lover as sole executor.
- Name someone inappropriate (try your high school sweetheart) as sole trustee of the funds you leave behind for someone else regardless of their track record for honesty or handling money. Be sure not to give clear guidance about when and how that person should be able to access funds. And make it impossible for them to change any part of the trust.
- Never ever organize your assets. Don’t make or keep copies of important legal documents. Don’t check that they have been registered or titled correctly. Don’t keep anything up to date.
Any one of these things will create an appalling and expensive mess for your family to try to fix after you’re gone. So now that you know how easy it can be to ruin their lives – DON’T do it! Speak to a lawyer specialising in estate planning. It will be a modest investment that pays great dividends in the wealth and happiness of your family.
Rod Genders is a senior Australian lawyer specialising in accident compensation and estate planning in Adelaide. His boutique specialist law firm is one of the oldest and most respected in Australia – visit it at www.genders.com.au . Rod is also a prolific author and speaker. Some of his articles and books on Wills, Probate, Trusts, Estate Planning, Asset Protection and Retirement Planning may be found at www.genders.com.au/adelaide-lawyer-blog.