DIY “Will Kits” are not new and now many websites boast online Wills which promise to save hundreds on legal fees. The convenience and low price may seem initially appealing, however there are some significant disadvantages to preparing a Will without sound legal advice.
1. You Don’t Meet the Person Writing Your Will. This is the most significant issue with self-generated legal documents. You don’t have the opportunity to discuss your family situation and your circumstances. You miss the opportunity for a lawyer to identify issues unique to you, that could be addressed with careful planning and legal expertise.
2. An Estate Plan Should Be More Than a Will. A lawyer should take a holistic approach and not only consider how your assets will be distributed, but also make provisions for appointing guardians and powers of attorney if you become unable to manage your financial and personal affairs.
3. Avoid Ademption. Ademption occurs when a gift to a beneficiary named in a Will fails. This may occur when specific property in a Will no longer exists at the time that the Estate is distributed, for example if property or another asset is sold after the Will is made. A skilfully drafted Will can prevent issues with ademption and ensure that your beneficiaries receive the intended share of your Estate.
4. Asset Structures. A lawyer can provide advice on the best structure in your Will, such as a testamentary trust, in order to protect your estate from estranged or unreliable family members, or creditors. Discretionary trusts are not only used to protect assets, but also to allow efficient tax planning.
5. Protection Against Claims. Eligible family members can make a claim against an Estate if they believe they have been unfairly treated under the Will. These claims can cause delays and financial burdens on finalising an Estate. Your lawyer can identify potential claimants and the family provision laws in your state, and advise on how to reduce the likelihood of such a claim.
If you are looking to write your first Will, I would strongly encourage you to seek legal advice to ensure that your Will accurately reflects your wishes and protects your intended beneficiaries from unnecessary disputes or difficulties. If you already have a Will, please take the time every year or so to review it with your lawyer, and ensure it remains current. If you have any concerns, or would like to get started on a Will, contact us at Edney Ryan on (02) 9908 9888 or email email@example.com.