In Estate planning on Tuesday 1st Feb, 2022

Five crucial reasons to avoid DIY Wills at all costs

A professionally made Will will give you peace of mind that you are being compliant with the legal requirements and that it is valid. Image source: Getty

Let’s face it – talking about death is confronting and uncomfortable and so it’s only natural for us to avoid thinking that far ahead. But planning for the inevitable and ensuring that you have a valid, legal and high-quality Will in place will not only be beneficial to you, but to your loved ones as well.

While we are all aware of the importance of having a Will, it is crucial to understand that there are risks to choosing a do-it-yourself (DIY) Will that can be bought from a local post office, newsagency or online, compared to a professionally made Will.

The idea of writing your own Will in your own words without involving a lawyer may seem enticing for some. You may be thinking “how hard can it be”? But the truth is, there are so many ways it could go wrong.

Let’s explore five crucial reasons why it is worth speaking to a professional Will maker to secure your wishes for the future:

1. Everyday words don’t always mean the same thing

The words used in a Will – much like any other legal document – need to be chosen very carefully. If your DIY Will is vague or your intentions are not explicitly clear, your wishes may not be followed properly, or even worse, your Will could even be ruled invalid.

Senior Solicitor in Wills and Estate Planning at NSW Trustee & Guardian, Natalie Darcy, explains that “there is an extensive body of law regarding the interpretation of Wills. Many people don’t realise that the words they use in everyday life may not have the meaning they intend when written down on a legal document such as a Will”.

For example, you may name your ‘children’ as beneficiaries – no problem there, right? But what if you have stepchildren? Suddenly, the term ‘children’ could potentially refer to a few different people and it could be unclear who you intended to include.

Darcy highlighted the importance of speaking to a professional Will maker, explaining that “unfortunately we have seen instances where well-meaning people have written their own Will with the result that the wording of their Will is ambiguous and a Court has had to determine who is entitled to the assets of the estate. This can result in many thousands of dollars in legal costs”.

2. Your DIY Will is not signed correctly

There are strict requirements for the signing and witnessing of your Will. If not done correctly, then your Will may be invalid. A professional Will maker will be able to advise you on complying with certain criteria to ensure your Will is valid.

Darcy explains how “in some limited circumstances, the Court may decide to accept a document as a Will even though it’s not signed in accordance with the legal requirements, but even if the Court accepts the document as a Will this can be a time consuming and expensive process” which is why it is so important to get it right the first time and avoid the risk of unnecessary expenses.

3. It could cost you more in the long run

The benefits of a DIY Will kit can be outweighed by the time, disruption, stress, and expenses involved later down the track. At first it may seem like you are saving on costs of seeing a professional, but the reality is it can cause more problems than it solves.

“Generally, the cost of seeing a professional to make a Will is far less than the costs that will be incurred after your death if there is a problem with your DIY Will” warns Darcy. “If your Will isn’t signed properly, or there is a problem with the wording of the Will or your Will is misplaced, then tens of thousands of dollars in legal costs could be incurred by your beneficiaries trying to sort out the issues”.

4. Everyone’s situation is unique

When it comes to Wills, there is no “one size fits all” approach. Everyone’s life is different and so it is important to have a Will that reflects your situation. If you have a complex family situation (for example you and your partner both have kids together, as well as kids from a previous marriage) or complicated financial affairs, it may be difficult to express your wishes in a simple DIY Will.

Working with NSW Trustee & Guardian means you can also discuss different scenarios and ‘what if’ situations, including what happens if a family member contests the Will or unforeseen complications arise.

5. Not everything is covered

Most DIY Wills are very basic and don’t go into important complex matters. “So many people have superannuation now and they might assume it will be dealt with in accordance with their Will, but in many cases it won’t be” explains Darcy.

“Other people hold assets in family trusts and companies which adds another layer of complexity” which is why is it crucial to seek professional advice to ensure that your assets end up in the right hands.

Leave it to the experts

A professionally made Will will give you peace of mind that you are being compliant with the legal requirements and that it is valid.

By obtaining professional advice from your solicitor or a government agency like NSW Trustee and Guardian, you will receive personalised advice taking into account your circumstances and that of your family, which in turn will help you make informed decisions about your Will.

Ready to say “I Will” with the number one Will maker in NSW? Talk to a Wills and Estate Planning Consultant by calling 1300 10 20 30 or visit tag.nsw.gov.au

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your financial or legal situation, objectives or needs. That means it’s not financial product or legal advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a financial or legal decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get independent, licensed financial services or legal advice.

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