Do It Yourself Wills – Okay or Not?

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I have only seen a few, but when I have, It’s not that there is something necessarily wrong with them, but the problems may lie in how you fill them out. If anything is uncertain in the filling out of your wishes, the cost of grief to the family and rectification by Courts can be enormous – i.e. tens of thousands of dollars. That is, you may well be paying lawyers to correct your will after you have passed.

I have clients that come in and I review the Wills that they have done themselves. Sometimes they would pass, sometimes little things or mistakes would be disastrous for their estate and loved ones. If signed appropriately with the correct attestation clause, it may meet the requirements for being valid, but what about the following issues:

You nominate an adult child as executor, but they can’t do it. Did you nominate an alternative?

What about if you leave a share of your estate to your child, but something happens to them and you didn’t account for that? Well, if they had children (your grandchildren), they may miss out and then what happens to that share? The Legislation would tell you what happens and it might end up with people you don’t want to receive it.

Your gifting of your estate might be vague and ambiguous eg. “I give my shares to my children”. Well, this would include, biological children and step-children (even if not married but your partner has adult children). Claims from self-made wills inevitably come from a will maker that wishes to leave a gift to a charity, or is in a blended family, or has a business or Self-Managed Superannuation Fund, or has complicated taxation affairs.

You may inadvertently include someone in your will that you didn’t wish to include, e.g.: “I leave 10% of my estate to my cousin John (and there are 2 cousin Johns including one that is a second cousin).

What if you miscalculate your estate? That is, “I give BHP shares to my daughter”, and this makes up half your estate. You leave your house to your son (the other half of your estate). But as time passed, you had to sell shares or the house to go into care. Well, one of the children will simply miss out or have to bring a claim against your estate.

The great thing about using a lawyer is that they can cater or have you consider, all these eventualities and often my client’s say “I didn’t think about that”.

This column is not legal advice as it does not take into consideration your individual facts and you ought seek independent legal advice.