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CHOICE reviews DIY Will Kits

@UtaMihm looks at the traps of drafting your own will. Read the article on DIY Will Kits.

If you have an experience you’d like to share, post it in the comments below.

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It would be helpful to have a score out of 10 or some sort of system that rates each type. The review doesn’t really clarify which are the best ones to use. Also, there are some online ones which would be interesting to have reviewed too. I was going to go to the public trustee but they charge a % of the estate which can add up to be quite a lot of money.

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Thanks for the feedback@chesai70 - we’ll take this into consideration for future updates.

We’ve updated our article on DIY will kits:

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Hey Brendan i think you missed one to add i.e YourWills

Your Wills is a Melbourne based and owned company providing a quick and efficient way of creating a Will, in your own time, at an affordable cost. Despite the mystique of Wills, if your Will is simple and straightforward it does not require prohibitive costs and half a day to visit a legal professional.

We want to remove the stigma and confusion that surrounds the topic of creating of a Will by making the conversation approachable and the process relatable, easy-to-understand, fast and accessible. Your Wills is a simple, time efficient solution to providing a legally recognised Will online.

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Thanks @yourwills, I’ll be sure to pass on the suggestion to our finance team.

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It may be useful to also advise consumers of the options available through the Public Trustee in each State.

They may even be available free of charge depending on complexity and needs.
EG Qld https://www.pt.qld.gov.au/wills/making-a-will-step-by-step/

Choice does offer this important advice with the reviews:

Should you use a DIY will kit?

Going to a lawyer can be expensive, but will kits can be an excellent low-cost or free research tool. Depending on your situation and skills, they can help you write your will, but they can’t adequately handle complex situations such as blended families or self-managed super funds.

Making sure your loved ones are provided for is far too important to leave to chance, and the consequences could be disastrous if you get it wrong. We recommend you get some expert advice as well.

A word of caution, with all will kits, there is the considerable danger of not completing it properly. Especially with kits that aren’t in an electronic form, many lack prompts to complete necessary sections or questions and it can be easy to overlook something.

Our experience is that even simple things can complicate the task for the executor/s hence the need for a will to be reliably prepared, who ever provides the document.

Wills are not necessarily expensive when prepared by a Solicitor compared to the effort and costs incurred at the time of execution. Estate planning and considerations such as future needs in retirement may also be considerations for some, especially couples or those with shared lifestyles.

P.S.
The following may not be reliable given our experiences in NSW and Qld.

It may be how fees are charged by some to settle an estate, although most solicitors will negotiate a fixed fee or fixed fee plus agreed expenses. It’s a trap to believe you need to pay based on the value of an estate. Every estate will have different needs and property/assets. Selling a $20M property to pass the proceeds to charity will take similar effort for the estate as for a $1M one. Settling to one beneficiary is simpler than 10 across the current and ex’s family especially if any choose to contest or argue. Probate may or may not be required for many different reasons, sometimes because of relatively minor assets or amounts of money.

Whoever prepares the will, the executors are responsible for the execution. There is no obligation to appoint the Public Trustee or Solicitor preparing your will as the Executor. There may be good reasons to do so. Appointing a suitable relative/s or trusted friend does not prevent them from using The Public Trustee or a Solicitor to execute a will on their behalf, or employ a solicitor’s services as needed.

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Good point, and I’ll add that a will should specify all costs of administrating the estate must come from the estate to absolve the executor from becoming liable. It is conceivable some estates could be 100% consumed by fees and worse. The executor needs to be protected from having to pay from their own resources, not suggesting solicitors should work pro bono. The executor has fiduciary duties they can be held liable for if it comes to egregious behaviour.

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One thing to note is the Public Trustee officers will push that the Public Trustee is the executor of your will. While this might suit some, they do charge for the privilege. One can push back and add their own executor to a will if they so chose. There may be resistance from the PT officers to do so, but one has to remember that a will is one’s own document and not that of the PT.

The above also applies to some solicitors as well.

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I’m looking at a DIY Will and wondering if the Victorian version (paper based) is 1. the most comprehensive and 2. is OK in NSW?
Does anyone have any experience with this?

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Choice has a review of Will Kits
https://www.choice.com.au/money/financial-planning-and-investing/financial-planning/articles/will-kit-reviews

This might be a good place to start. Unfortunately I don’t have any interstate Will making experience.

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Hi @Trev1, welcome to the community.

I have moved your post/question to an existing thread about DIY wills. There may be information in this thread which assist you in making a decision.

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I had a will prepared by a local lawyer some years ago - cost just south of 500$. ‘Local’ lawyer was actually working here a few days a month and worked full time over 1500 km away.

More recently I had one prepared by a truly local lawyer who has assisted me with a couple of small matters unrelated. The cost was 300$ with future changes free as long as I was still their customer. Given my experience with them I can’t imagine going elsewhere.

Of course shopping around is always advisable - but with some matters (legal, medical - for example) people seem hesitant for reasons that escape me - ‘you’ are always a customer - ‘they’ are always a service provider - ‘you’ exchange money for ‘their’ service - simple. Expect and demand quality service. If one chooses to buy a will from the newsagent, well … I’m not sure I understand why I’d be tempted to put at risk the outcome of my estate to save a few dollars.

Pay attention to superannuation - some mystical b/s goes on in that department that beggars belief, and while it seems that the potential for bad outcomes is rare, it seems the potential is scary if ones personal circumstances are ‘more complicated’ …

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We went to our local “family” solicitor’s office. They gave us advice for free and when we decide what to do with our updated Will there may be a charge to prepare it. As I recollect 13 years ago there was no charge as it was simply updating because the wife had died and he had remarried (in essence, changed one name). They knew they would get the conveyancing work.

I had several family members who attempted to alter a properly written Will and in the process ended up with a settlement they did not want. They listened to advice from “bush lawyers” rather than paying $50 (or nothing in our case) for sound advice.

Whether you have nothing or lots, make a Will, say who gets the photos, the dog etc. My B-in-law refuses to make a Will saying he preferred everything to go to the Govt. Unfortunately for him it will go to relatives he didn’t want to benefit.

We were advised that anything in Joint names goes to the survivor, anything purchased (unless specifically in one name) after the wedding is deemed to be jointly owned. The children of the other spouse assume that they are entitled to everything, and this is where the support of the drafting solicitor to explain the legalities is useful; saves family in-fighting etc. A statement outlining your reasons for decisions is useful, not legal, but if there is a challenge to the Will it holds some weight.

If you are leaving things to a charity - contact them first - they may not want it! A friend, with a compassionate nature, left her broken down old house to a charity specifically to be used as a rehabilitation centre. They couldn’t afford it and had to decline. If she had been less specific they could have sold it.

With Super, we are looking into rolling over to the two childrens’ Super accounts rather than having it paid into the Estate. There are advantages to doing that, and it stops them blowing it all, if it was cashed out and replaces some of the money they ripped out “because they could”. A Will needs to be considered carefully. But don’t waste years thinking about it. Do a simple Will while you cogitate. You never know when you’ll need it, and it could be too late.

We had a scare when our Doctor said my husband had dementia (and therefore unable to do anything legal), but it turned out he based that on the parents having died in their mid 90’s with dementia. Both tests showed he was still OK. Now we are getting affairs in order, Powers of Attorney, Advanced Health Care Directive, things in joint names so either of us can deal for the other etc. Don’t put it off.

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Many thanks to all who have taken the time to contribute to my issue re DIY wills. Sage advice I will act upon. I’m still unsure of the national/interstate application of a will written up on a template from a state where I don’t reside, but that’s something I can pursue with a little research.
Cheers and stay safe in '21

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Is there some relevance?

When a will is prepared you are required to state your full details including your place of residence. Why would you choose a template that may be different to the state you are living in?

If there are assets held in multiple states and territories of Australia they will be subject to the requirements of that state or territory. It would be prudent if this is likely to discuss with a legal professional. It can become quite complex, more so if these are valuable assets, and may require reseal of a grant.

Note:
https://www.supremecourt.justice.nsw.gov.au/Pages/sco2_probate/Applying-for-a-reseal-of-a-Grant.aspx

In so many ways Australia is not legally one entity!

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to reinforce your point, as many insurance policies state, ‘[it] is valid everywhere in Australia, and in Tasmania’ :rofl:

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