Most of us have seen will kits in a newsagency, or seen them advertised on-line or in the press. Buying one is certainly cheaper than seeing your solicitor to make one, but do they work?
The simple answer is "Yes, they can", If a will from a kit is properly signed and meets the technical requirements, it is a valid will. The signing must be right – the will-maker must sign each page in the presence of two disinterested witnesses, who must also sign. All three must see each other sign. A Court can waive shortcomings in the signing process, but of course this costs time and money – far more than the cost of having a solicitor prepare a will and supervise its signing.
The more common problems with will kits arise from what you do not know. Lets look at a common scenario, where a couple are making wills in mutual terms. They want to leave everything to the survivor, and if they do not survive each other, to their children equally. Think about these considerations:
- If they do not survive, who will be the executor/s? If they have a number of children, will it be too cumbersome to have all of them as executors? If they pick one or two as executors, will the others be upset, and how do you deal with this?
- If a child does not survive the parents, leaving children- the grandchildren- will the grandchildren get the share their parent would have received?
- If any grandchildren are still children, at what age will they actually receive their inheritance? Remember, they become adults legally at 18. The will-maker can decide at what age they receive the payout, even if it is, say, 21 or 25.
- If the grandchild possibility exists, who will manage their share for them, and can it be used for their benefit before they reach the specified age?
- Any superannuation entitlements do not normally form part of the estate. How will they be dealt with? You have to tell your fund how you want your entitlement dealt with - a "Nomination". Unless your fund allows Binding Nominations, your wish may not necessarily be agreed to by the fund trustees.
- You may want to make some specific gifts. Some of us like to leave something to a favourite charity, and often a mother will want to specify who will receive her jewellery.
It is important to get professional advice if your will may disappoint someone . The chances of the terms of your will being challenged can be reduced if the proper precautions are taken in its drafting.
Your solicitor will usually let you know about the importance of having an Enduring Power of Attorney and a Guardianship Appointment, of dealing with superannuation and of letting your executor know where your will and your financial records are. Most solicitors provide a safe custody service so that your will and other significant documents are safe and can be accessed.
To sum up, a kit may work for you but it’s unlikely that to cover everything you need.