As Australians deal with the uncertainties of a global pandemic, many will be forced to face their own mortality. As a result, those who had previously put-off making a Will may find themselves prioritising this in the coming weeks.
Generally inexpensive and convenient, picking up a Will Kit from the local post office will be an attractive option for households experiencing increased financial stress. However, those who choose to use a Will Kit instead of seeking professional assistance from a lawyer may live (or die) to regret this decision.
The following are a few of the reasons why:
1. Will Kits are more prone to errors and confusion
Whether you like it or not, Wills are ultimately a legal document governed by various pieces of legislation and a body of extensive case law. This means that there are many rules and terminology specific to the interpretation of a Will. Someone who drafts their own Will is unlikely to be aware of this body of knowledge. Therefore, the words they use in their Will may have an unintentional effect or may cause inadvertent ambiguity. There are frequent cases before the courts where a person’s homemade Will is subject to expensive litigation because it was not drafted properly.
2. Will Kits can’t advise you regarding your specific situation
If you have a complex family situation (such as a blended family), the standard format of a Will Kit is simply not going to allow you to properly satisfy the competing interests of your various family members. Furthermore, the Will Kit cannot advise the testator of likely scenarios should a family member contest the Will. Nor can a Will Kit provide an opportunity to explore the ‘what if’ scenarios with a professional adviser to avoid unintended complications.
3. Will Kits don’t cover everything
While most Will Kits cover the basics (e.g. appointing an executor, disposing of your whole estate), they may not include important matters that you have not considered. For example, contrary to what many think, your superannuation will not be automatically distributed according to your Will and requires professional advice to ensure it ends up in the right hands. Similarly, advice should be sought regarding assets owned by companies or family trusts that you control, as they also fall outside the domain of your Will.
4. Will Kits don’t include testamentary trusts
Including a testamentary trust in your Will can provide strong asset protection for your beneficiaries and save them considerable tax after you die. Unfortunately, Will Kits do not usually allow you to include such trusts in your Will and thereby withhold these benefits from your beneficiaries.
5. Will Kits don’t store themselves
An important (and often underappreciated) service that most lawyers offer is the free storage of your Will once it is executed. This is important because if the original signed Will is ever lost, it will be assumed by a court that you destroyed it with the intention of cancelling it. By storing your Will with a law firm, it will be easy to locate and be kept safe.
Please think through the above reasons before using a Will Kit. It could end up costing you more than the money you think you are saving by not engaging a lawyer. Call de Groots wills and estate lawyers now to get a professionally drafted Will and the peace of mind that accompanies it.