Do-it-yourself Wills. What could go wrong?

2 December 2015 by Aon Hewitt

The purpose of your Will is to legally document how you wish your assets to be distributed when you pass away. Getting professional advice from an estate planning specialist is an important part of ensuring that your Will’s legal structure can fulfil your wishes.

Do-it-yourself (DIY) Will kits are inexpensive but, if estate planning law has not been properly considered, the Will may be deemed invalid. This is the last thing that a grieving family needs to deal with. Incorrect witnesses or dates, and the inconsistent treatment of beneficiaries are some of the issues that can invalidate a Will.

Anna Hacker, Wills and Estates Accredited Specialist at Equity Trustees Limited (EQT), notes that “DIY Wills are a litigator’s dream. It always surprises me to see people who have done everything they can throughout their lives to develop strategies to protect their wealth and minimise their tax liabilities, then decide to save money by using a DIY Will kit”.

“You cannot properly plan your estate on your own by using DIY Will kits, internet forms and Google.”

Ms Hacker said that the most common reason for Wills to be questioned is likely to be that the person who made the Will did not seek professional advice and assistance.

“Just as people are happy to pay experts for medical and financial advice – and even to get their hair cut – it is essential to get experts involved in estate planning. You cannot properly plan your estate on your own by using DIY Will kits, internet forms and Google.”

A Will being out of date, incorrectly written, or not clearly reflecting the Will-maker’s intentions are common problems with DIY Will kits and may lead to challenges and lengthy court proceedings. These issues may delay payments and emotionally drain potential beneficiaries who are frustrated that their loved one’s wishes are not being fulfilled. If a Will is successfully challenged, the legal cost of the challenge is generally paid for out of the estate thus reducing the amount for distribution to beneficiaries. Usually, obtaining proper advice and understanding the process can help you avoid this situation.

“There have been a number of challenges before the Courts lately. In my experience, people are more likely than ever to challenge a Will”, advised Ms Hacker adding that “A Will prepared by a trustee company or legal practitioner who has expertise in the area (especially where the estate is complex) will help to minimise such problems. Involving an estate planning specialist in the preparation of a Will can be far cheaper in the long run than ‘fixing’ problems that arise after death.”

“The only thing that is more problematic than using a DIY Will kit is having no Will at all. Either situation can lead to the Courts or the State making a final decision on what happens to a person’s estate which may not be close to what they had intended,” concluded Ms Hacker.

If you would like to explore the benefits that a professionally drawn-up estate plan can bring to you, please contact us.