Updated: 27 March 2020
Trying to DIY the most important legal document in your life is a bad idea.
This is a specialised area 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.
Most people would not dream of attempting to install their own toilet or air-conditioner, because they require specialist knowledge from experienced and reliable installers to prevent hidden problems down the track.
So why do some people think it’s a good idea to DIY the most important document in their family’s future?
Here are 7 of the most common errors people make with DIY Wills:
#1. No Advice
While DIY Will-kits and online services might provide you with a document that looks like a Will, appearances can be deceptive. What you are paying a lawyer for is the advice they provide you along with the Will.
It is illegal for anyone other than a licensed lawyer to provide legal advice for a fee, whether that means answering questions or making planning suggestions for how to accomplish goals.
So the companies that offer DIY Wills or kits or online documents are always careful to tell you that they are not giving you legal advice, and they ALWAYS recommend that you consult a lawyer if you have questions.
#2. Poor Information
Questionnaires are used to gather information necessary to complete a Will. But these simply create a starting point for a thorough estate planning discussion.
While do-it-yourself options might seem appealing for convenience or cost reasons, they are unable to follow-up with in-depth questions to elicit what is often the most crucial information for planning purposes.
Estate planning is an area of law where there is considerable upheaval at the moment. Pre-printed kits and online sites make no guarantees about being current.
Good estate planning lawyers not only keep up with changes to federal and state laws, but will often follow-up with clients to invite them to re-evaluate their documents when major changes in the law occur.
Will kits are notorious for claiming to apply throughout the whole country, however this is a state-based area of law, and the laws change from time to time and from state-to-state.
Just how likely is it that the publisher of a Will “kit” (which is nothing more than expensive stationery) has conducted a full and up to date review of the laws and best practice in every state and territory of Australia?
Inaccurate, confusing, misleading and out of date information is rife in those sorts of kits. Online Wills services are no better.
#4. No Warranty
Online services and form kits include disclaimers stating they cannot be held responsible for problems arising from their documents.
Essentially you are buying a piece of paper “as is” without recourse if the document turns out not to do what you wanted.
Even small mistakes can be very costly so spending a little more to have a lawyer prepare your documents will ensure you get the right ones for your situation.
Plus, should anything go wrong, lawyers stand behind their work and carry insurance to make things right.
#5. Lack of Flexibility
In my 35 year career, every person with whom I have discussed estate planning has believed that their situation is simple & straightforward, and they initially felt their affairs were too simple to require professional estate planning.
In almost every case however, there were unique elements which required careful attention and specific language to accomplish what they initially had thought was a simple task.
This is largely due to their misunderstanding of what they can or should be achieving in their modern integrated estate plan.
#6. Children & Stepchildren
Just filling in a form to indicate you want to leave your assets to your kids is easy right?
But if you have stepchildren, unless they are legally adopted by you (which is increasingly rare in Australia), they are not considered your children under most intestacy statutes, including South Australia, and would receive nothing under such a form Will.
To later have a share distributed to a stepchild may take considerable litigation and thousands (maybe tens of thousands) in legal fees.
Another significant issue is the timing of distributions of assets to children. Without language that creates a trust for minor beneficiaries, the money will be given outright as soon as they turn 18.
A lawyer can draft language to provide distributions as you so choose, even if your only asset is life insurance.
This could stagger distributions to 21 or 25, and provide discretionary powers such as ensuring the beneficiary is properly accommodated and educated.
And don’t forget to appoint a guardian for your minor children (some kit-Wills omit this and other important features of a modern Australian Will.
#7. Witnessing & Execution
There are lots of little things which can invalidate your Will or estate plan.
The absence of a simple word like “absolutely” can completely alter the meaning of a phrase which in turn may require a judge to have to determine the proper interpretation.
Signing the Will properly with proper witnesses will make or break your document and the rules vary from state to state so you need the right instructions.
Are you concerned about how to create or update your Will in this time of COVID-19?
What you need is the newest initiative from one of the oldest law firms in Australia. It’s called a Remote Will, and it’s available to all Australian residents over the age of 18 years, anywhere in Australia.
A senior Australian lawyer who specialises in Wills & Estates will confer with you personally and confidentially via Skype videoconferencing on your computer, smartphone or tablet.
You’ll be in the privacy of your own home or office – no travel or parking required. After-hours appointments are available.
The lawyer will spend 45-90 minutes with you asking questions, giving advice and taking your instructions. Then within 2 business days you’ll receive via email your carefully drafted Will – specific and unique to you – together with a clear and easy-to-follow checklist on how to execute (sign) it, to make it valid and binding throughout Australia.
No mess, no fuss – and all for a single low fixed fee.
That’s convenience, peace-of-mind and cost-effectiveness all wrapped-up together in a neat package. It’s called Remote Will, by Genders and Partners Lawyers (established 1848).
Click on the image below to book your “Remote Will Free 15 min Phone Consult” today!
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SPECIAL REPORT “7 Things You Must Know Before You Make Your Will”
In this report you will Learn:
Why home-made Wills can be a LOT more expensive than you might think.
The secret weapons used by the rich & powerful to protect their assets, and transfer their wealth two or three generations ahead.
How Estate and Trustee Companies make BIG money from “free” Wills.
The Most Common Estate Planning Mistakes, how they can cost your family a fortune, and How to Avoid Them.
The Elements of a Sound Estate Plan – why a Will alone is not enough.
How to Make Sure Your Assets Stay in Your Family and are not lost to creditors, lawsuits or ex-spouses.
How to guard against challenges to your Estate after you’re gone.