Will Kits: Should You Use Them?
A will kit is an online or hardcopy do-it-yourself option for preparing and implementing a Last Will and Testament for yourself or a family member. While a will kit is usually advertised as an inexpensive, no-hassle solution for preparing and setting forth the desires for your estate or the estates of your loved ones upon death, there are some important things you should know before you decide to take this path. Experiencing the loss of a family member or preparing for your own future can be a daunting task, and taking extra precautions to ensure a seamless estate management process can be a positive move. Let’s take a look at why will kits have become so prevalent along with some of the risks in using will kits before you decide to invest in one.
Why are will kits so prevalent?
In recent years, we have seen do-it-yourself will kit offers emerge on TV, throughout the Internet, and within tax and financial software programs alike. It is a perfect time for entrepreneurs to capitalize. Mobile and social technology make it easy to push brand marketing, web-based businesses are flourishing, and the baby-boomer era is presenting an intense senior market for which these types of services will soon be needed. People have access to thousands of free forms and documents on the Internet, and the do-it-yourself model is promoted as a money-saving solution for just about everything—from financial and real estate services to home repair and decor. While many potential online business owners see this as the perfect time to push do-it-yourself will kits, the risks may outweigh the only advantage—a low-cost solution—which could very easily turn into an expensive mistake for you or your loved ones.
What are some of the risks in using will kits?
Using a DIY will kit can end up creating significant costs and problems for many different reasons. Some of the big reasons why it could be a serious mistake to use a DIY will kit include the following:
A DIY will kit will not give you any legal advice or guidance. Most people do not know how to create a will, and the basic kit they receive is not going to help them with all of the technicalities and particulars applicable under estate laws. This means you could create a will that is not executed correctly or that leaves out key information. For example:
- Documents must be printed and executed in the presence of witnesses
- Executors, beneficiaries, and substitutes for both must be correctly named
- Provisions must be made for marriages, divorces, and other events that change the course of legal documentation (the legal act of divorce revokes references to a former spouse via an executor or beneficiary in the will)
- There are some people in your life for whom the law may require you make provision
- Some proposed beneficiaries may be better catered for by testamentary trust rather than a simple will
- Will kits do not cover superannuation pension funds, those funds reserved to pay workers’ pensions at the time they retire
Your heirs could end up spending a lot of money on legal costs if your will is not enforceable or if there are questions about your wishes after your death. This eats into the inheritance you hope to leave behind.
A DIY will kit only provides you with the basic framework for creating a will. If you have any complexities associated with your estate at all, you may be unable to determine how to include the provisions you need in your will. You could end up having to hire a lawyer anyway just to get the job done, but you would have already spent unnecessary funds on a kit that is not helpful.
Someone could inherit that you would not have chosen. When you want to give a gift to particular people, you do not want your money to be wasted going to someone who you would not want to inherit. Unfortunately, leaving someone out of your will is not necessarily as simple as just saying you want your assets distributed to others. Under Succession Act 2006, certain people are vested with the rights to challenge your will. They could prevail if your will was not created in perfect accordance with the law – and your heirs would lose out on all of the funds that they would otherwise have received. If a gift fails (like if you leave money to someone who dies before you), the funds could also be inherited by someone you’d prefer not to be a beneficiary, unless you have taken steps to ensure the correct people receive the gifts you leave behind. A DIY will is not going to account for these complicated situations.
Your will could be challenged. While a will can be challenged under many circumstances (even when a lawyer helps create it), a challenge may have a greater chance of success if a DIY will kit was used and if any mistakes were made. Your heirs could end up having to spend more money on legal fees fighting for the inheritance you left them, and these legal fees would eat into the estate.
Your heirs could end up paying more in taxes. Capital gains tax can sometimes apply when a change in ownership occurs, even if the change is prompted because the owner passed away. However, CGT may not be disregarded if a post-CGT asset passes to a foreign resident or a tax-advantaged entity. Your lawyer can help you to understand the tax implications associated with the gifts you are making in your will.
Without the presence of a lawyer or legal advisor, many of these items are not considered, which can easily negate self-made documents pertaining to a will. Will kits lead to unintended legal complications that can be avoided with proper counsel. Owen Hodge Lawyers may be able to answer some important questions about this critical decision. It is necessary to consider your loved ones by establishing a proper will before an unexpected situation arises, and experienced solicitors are available and willing to help. In any case, beware of online will kit marketers that provide product disclaimers; most of them remove any responsibility if the will kit is not effective.
Why should I seek a lawyer to prepare my will?
Since your will is possibly the most important document you will ever have prepared, your diligence in ensuring its legitimacy and accuracy is essential. You want to understand the components of your will and provide the correct responses. By selecting a lawyer or other legal counsel to prepare your will, you enter into a relationship with a skilled professional who will be there with you during the process and well beyond in the case of issues. You rely on both a lawyer and an insurance company to secure your assets and ensure your wishes are carried out in the way you intended.
When you establish a solid relationship with a certified solicitor such as the experts at Owen Hodge Lawyers, you leave your will and estate in the hands of experts in their field, and your family will not be left with legal issues and expensive fees due to incorrect documents and mis-information. There are a number of important reasons to establish a relationship with a trained professional for will and estate planning services:
• A will is extremely personal and should be tailored to meet your individual circumstances
• The laws surrounding wills and estate administration vary between states and territories; selecting a lawyer to prepare your will considers the law in your location
• Your intentions may not be validated in a do-it-yourself will
• Precise language is the only way to communicate your intentions. Vague or conflicting wording and poor structure in your documents can negate your intentions or incur heavy costs
• A professionally prepared will takes into account the tax implications after a death
• You investing in a long-term, secure relationship to manage your needs now, in the future, and after a death
• You gain an edge for your business and investment assets that a will kit will not consider
• A lawyer is versed in the legal considerations for blended families—in which a parent has children that are not genetically related to another parent
While will kits may seem like an attractive, low-cost solution for your will or the wills of your family, carefully consider the long-terms costs and unintended legal complications of erroneous documents. Contact Owen Hodge Lawyers today on 1800 770 780 to prepare the most important documents of your life. Do not wait until it’s too late.