Legal

Shannen Findlay

The rise of DIY wills and why you shouldn’t go there

The rise of DIY wills and why you shouldn’t go there

If you don’t have a legal background, navigating through a will can be an incredibly daunting experience.

And although they can be an expensive process when going through the official hoops to sort one out for yourself or a loved one, it is an important and necessary cost.

Without proper legal guidance, navigating through the correct procedure can often mean your creation and estate planning process can be an experience that can result in complications, drawn out time periods and costly court proceedings.

Bennett & Philip lawyer, Geoff Armstrong says “Do it yourself” wills is not the best process to choose even if they may be cost-effective.

“It is common for us to see homemade wills that don’t meet legal requirements,” he explained.

“The difference is if you have a professionally drawn will and you have to apply for a probate in the court, there’s rarely a problem. If you have a homemade will that isn’t correct, you may have to go to a judge to get it accepted as a valid will and it would cost a lot of money, in many cases between $30,000 and $50,000.”

Mr Armstrong urges those with a professional or DIY will to review them every two or three years.

“…If there has been a big life change for example a marriage, divorce, having children or grandchildren, something you’ve gifted no longer exists or a beneficiary dying or losing capacity – these changes can significantly affect a will and an appropriate amendment is required,” he said.

Mr Armstrong advises those managing wills of their own or loved ones to implement these questions if you want to go down the correct path.

Who will your executors and beneficiaries be?

Choosing the key people who will play a huge part in dividing all your interests and assets in your will can be a difficult decision to make. While executors have the responsibility of looking after your will and dictate your funeral wishes or gifts, beneficiaries are the people who inherit what is yours.

Typically, children, spouse, or other family members are chosen as beneficiaries, but you are not required to do this.

Charities, organisations or trusts can obtain your belongings, after all it is a decision that is completely yours alone.

“But whoever you do decide, it’s important to ask them first and include their full names with as much detail as you can,” Mr Armstrong said.

“Some people choose a professional executor such as a lawyer or accountant because they are independent from the family and managing at arms-length.”

What are your funeral wishes or special gifts to give?

You may wish to have your body cremated and ashes scattered in a special place. If so, it is important to include this in your will. While it is not a legally binding agreement, it is still important you make clear what you want to happen for yourself when you go.

Mr Armstrong said: “I previously had a case in England where a woman wished for her Jack Russel to be euthanised immediately after she passed away, so they could meet up on the ‘other side’.

“When she did pass her dog was with the neighbour, who sent the dog away because it was perfectly healthy and did not need to be put down.

“Upon further discussion, it was decided not to focus our efforts in locating the canine as it would cost thousands of pounds in the process at the expense of the ultimate beneficiary.”

Who will look after your pets if you have any?

While you cannot physically leave items or money to your pets, you can decide to leave them to someone else with a gift of money to cover the cost it would take to look after them.

“Whatever future you want for your pet, be sure to include it in your will.” Mr Armstrong advises.

“Because it is not legally binding, people do forget about their pets but in an emergency, the executor can take care of them.”

While it may be difficult to decide what to put in your will, you can always start by asking yourself these simple questions.

Should you require expert legal advice on wills and estates or any other legal matter, Bennett & Philp’s Geoffrey Armstrong can be contacted at garmstrong@bennettphilp.com.au or on (07) 3001 2960.