Key factors to consider when deciding if a DIY will kit is right for you

Apr 18, 2023
Deciding whether a DIY will is right for you depends on various factors. Source: Getty Images.

Wills and estate planning are essential components of managing your assets and ensuring that your wishes are carried out after your passing.

While many people prefer to hire a lawyer to draft their wills, do-it-yourself (DIY) options are becoming increasingly popular. However, it’s crucial to weigh the pros and cons of creating a DIY will before making a decision.

Deciding whether a DIY will is right for you depends on various factors, including the complexity of your estate, your understanding of estate planning laws, and your comfort level with legal documents.

In an effort to help you determine whether a DIY will is the right choice for your unique circumstances, Starts at 60 took a deep dive into what’s involved in drafting a DIY will, the pros and cons as well as key considerations.

Source: Getty Images.

What do you need to consider? 

Deciding whether a DIY will is right for you requires careful consideration of several factors:

  • Understand the legal requirements for creating a valid will in your jurisdiction.
  • Evaluate the complexity of your estate and potential for disputes among beneficiaries.
  • Consider your comfort level with legal and financial matters.
  • Assess your willingness to spend the time and effort required to create a thorough and accurate document.
  • Weigh the potential cost savings of a DIY will against the benefits of seeking professional legal advice.
  • Make an informed decision based on your individual needs and circumstances.

Founder and CEO of Simple Separation and Family Law Mediator, Christina Salvo explains that “estate planning can be an overwhelming process, but a vital part of ensuring your loved ones are provided for and protected after you’ve gone.”

“With many elements involved, it’s crucial you weigh up your options and spend some time considering the best pathway for planning your estate,” Salvo says. 

“The biggest piece of advice I give to people is to know exactly what the requirements are when considering their options. While DIY wills are highly accessible, many people get tripped up on the wording and don’t fully understand what needs to be actioned. A lack of understanding here can ultimately leave more challenges than benefits for your loved ones once you’ve passed. 

“I’d encourage everyone to seek some level of credible legal support to ensure your wishes will be met and the process is completely adhered to, leaving little room for error.”

Ultimately, making an informed decision about whether to create a DIY will requires careful reflection and a thorough understanding of your individual needs and circumstances.

Source: Getty Images. 

The pros and cons of a DIY will

While a DIY will can be a cost-effective solution and may work well for those with simple estates, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before deciding if it’s the right choice for you.

On one hand, a DIY will allows you to save money and maintain control over the drafting process. On the other hand, without professional guidance, there is a higher risk of mistakes, which can result in unintended consequences and disputes among beneficiaries.

Additionally, DIY wills may not address complex estate planning issues or comply with all legal requirements, making it crucial to carefully evaluate your individual circumstances before deciding whether a DIY will is right for you.

Salvo highlights that “while creating a DIY will may seem like a cost-effective and convenient option, there are both benefits and negatives to consider.”

Benefits of a DIY will:

  • Cost savings: The primary benefit of a DIY will is that it is generally less expensive than hiring a lawyer to create a will. This can be particularly helpful for individuals who have a simple estate and do not require complex legal advice.
  • Convenience: Creating a DIY will can be completed at any time that is convenient for you.
  • Control: When you create a DIY will, you have complete control over the document and its contents. You can customise your will to your specific needs and preferences.

Negatives of a DIY will:

  • Legal complexity: While some estates are relatively simple, others can be quite complex, particularly if you have a significant amount of assets or if you have dependents or beneficiaries with special needs. In such cases, a DIY will may not adequately address all of the legal complexities involved.
  • Errors and omissions: A DIY will may contain errors or omissions that can invalidate the document or result in unintended consequences. For example, failing to properly identify beneficiaries or failing to use the correct legal language can lead to confusion and disputes later down the track.
  • Lack of professional guidance: When you create a DIY will, you are not receiving the guidance and advice of a legal professional. This can lead to uncertainty and anxiety about whether your will is legally valid and will achieve your desired outcome
  • Medical incapacity: DIY Will kits may not include planning for Guardianship or Power of Attorney if you are medically incapacitated prior to death. This is an area that lawyers can give additional counsel on and help you decide how to plan for. 

“While DIY will kits are cheaper, they often end up costing your loved ones time and money in the future if they don’t exactly meet will requirements,” Salvo says. 

“There are other options that are budget friendly that will ensure you are protected – you can have more of an element of control over your estate planning, but you reap the benefit of having sound legal counsel – all online and from the comfort of your home.” 

Source: Getty Images.

The steps required to put together a DIY will

If you have decided that creating a DIY will is the right choice for you, it’s important to understand the steps involved in drafting a valid and legally binding document.

Drafting a DIY will can be a complex process, and it is important to take the necessary steps to ensure that your final document is legally binding and accurately reflects your wishes. The following steps can help guide you through the process:

  1. Start by identifying the beneficiaries and assets you wish to include in your will.
  2. Choose an executor who will be responsible for carrying out the provisions of your will.
  3. Determine how you want your assets to be distributed and specify any conditions or requirements.
  4. Include any additional instructions or requests, such as funeral arrangements or charitable donations.
  5. Ensure that your will meets the legal requirements for validity, such as having it in writing, signed by you and witnessed by two independent witnesses.
  6. Store your will in a safe and accessible location and inform your executor and loved ones of its whereabouts.

When it comes to putting together a DIY will, Salvo explains that “there are options to start this process online or at some retail outlets (Australia Post).”

“However, I recommend speaking to a lawyer at some stage in the process to understand the process and what you require,” Salvo suggests. 

“As the tech sector evolves, so do the options for estate planning and will drafting.  There are now services that allow you the flexibility and control when planning your estate and couple this with sound legal counsel, at a fraction of the cost as traditional legal services.” 

It’s always advisable to seek legal advice to ensure that your will is comprehensive and legally sound. Additionally, if your estate is particularly complex, or if you have concerns about potential challenges to your will, professional legal assistance is strongly recommended.

If you are considering a DIY will kit, it is important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks carefully before making a decision. While a DIY kit may be a cost-effective and convenient option for some, it may not provide the same level of legal protection as a professionally drafted will.

Additionally, factors such as the complexity of your estate and your own comfort level with legal documents should also be taken into account. Ultimately, it is up to you to determine what is best for your individual situation and to seek professional legal advice if you are unsure.

With careful consideration and preparation, you can create a will that provides peace of mind for you and your loved ones.

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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