Australians are increasingly using cheap online kits to prepare their wills but a leading wills and estate planning law firm has warned there are hidden dangers in using pro forma kits.
A national study by the University of Queensland in 2015 entitled Having the Last Word? Will making and contestation in Australia found 11 per cent of Australian testators prepared their will using a hard copy or an internet will kit and five per cent drew up a will themselves.
But doing it yourself could lead to mistakes that could prove far more costly than professional legal advice says Paul Paxton-Hall, director of Paxton-Hall Lawyers.
“Cheap DIY kits are available online for around the same price as brunch at your local café,” he said.
“Your will is one of the most important documents you can make in your lifetime and while people may save money by creating a will themselves, it could cost their loved ones a lot more in the long run.
“These tick-and-flick formulas cannot adequately handle complex financial affairs or situations like self-managed super funds or blended families.
“Ill-prepared wills can lead to costly litigation if terms are ambiguous or can be misinterpreted.”
The same UQ study found the median cost incurred by estates when a will is contested was $11,900. In addition, almost a quarter of disputants (24 per cent) incurred costs from the dispute (median cost was $14,918).
“Creating an estate plan is not a matter of filling in the blanks and there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach,” Paxton-Hall said.
“In the case of Rhodes v Rhodes in Queensland, a man established a testamentary discretionary trust in one sentence using a pro forma kit. The ambiguous will lead to a dispute among his family that ended up in the Supreme Court of Queensland and a significant delay in the administration of his estate.
“Estate planning requires specialist advice, careful planning and accurate drafting to ensure your wishes are clear, unambiguous and able to be carried out after your death.
“A wills and estates lawyer can also advise on strategies to reduce risk and the types of circumstances that may require revisions to a will.”