How much does a DIY Will really cost?
Doing a Will has been known to be in the ‘too-hard basket’. Sometimes the cost of writing a Will and obtaining estate planning advice puts people off. Other times people just can’t find the time to see a solicitor. A do-it-yourself (DIY) Will and Will kits on the internet are cheap. Sometimes even free! My estate is simple enough, right? And a Will is easy enough to write, isn’t it?
Stop right there. A Will is a legal document. You probably wouldn’t ask your personal trainer to do your tax return, your doctor to give you advice on investment strategies, or your accountant for rehabilitation exercises following your knee surgery. This is outside their professional expertise. And if you wanted to have a crack at doing your own tax return, determining your own investment strategies or conjuring up some of your own post knee surgery exercises, you could be in for some costly consequences, or missing out on some substantial benefits. A Will is no different.
HKH have administered many estates and acted for executors and beneficiaries alike which have involved a DIY Will and we have seen a range of problems. Some of the most common include:
- Drafting errors. The legal jargon often contained within a Will is not just there to sound pompous. It usually has a specific legal meaning which can be misused by someone who is not legally trained. As a result, in DIY Wills it is common for distributions and intentions to be unclear. At the other end of the spectrum, there can sometimes be too much specificity, such that a person may miss out on an intended gift as it does not exist anymore (for e.g., the contents of bank account which was emptied 10 years ago, or the prized Holden Statesman that carked it in 1999).
- Formalities. Being a legal document, a Will has to comply with certain formalities to be considered valid. If a Will is not executed properly, including being properly signed by witnesses, the Executors will have to apply to the Court under section 11A of the Wills Act 1968 (ACT) to get it approved. This could be a costly exercise for your estate which can easily be avoided.
- Taxation. Often CGT and superannuation death benefits tax are not considered when writing a DIY Will. HKH can advise you on these issues.
- Challenges to the Will. Have you left someone out of the Will (accidentally, see (1), or on purpose)? Do you have a former spouse? Do you have some rocky family relationships or unconventional living arrangements? Are you part of a blended family? If your circumstances sound like any of these examples it is essential that you seek legal advice to minimise the likelihood of your estate being challenged. A $30 DIY Will is not worth a $30,000 Family Provision Claim!
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