The information provided below is general in nature and should not be relied upon legal advice. You should call 03 5445 1000 and speak to a lawyer at OFRM about your particular circumstances.

Penny wise and pound foolish - why you should not make your own will

Penny wise and pound foolish - why you should not make your own will

Making your own will is simply a bad idea. Making no will is even worse, but many people are lulled into a false sense of security when they use a will kit. I have seen many will kits over the years and the success rate for effective completion is less than 50%. Now that is not a very good outcome when you are trying to protect assets that might be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The main difficulty is that the information contained in the will kits are of a general nature and consequently the knowledge that is passed to you becomes quite superficial. There are many legal issues that are relevant when preparing a will and it is simply not possible for an untrained person to be aware of these matters when making their own.

An experienced lawyer can draw to your attention many issues that may not have been considered usually there are numerous options and solutions to the issues that should be considered in a will, but if you don’t know about them, then your beneficiaries might be disadvantaged.

But even if you feel that you have covered all of the relevant issues, do you have the skills to complete the form? The kits sometimes provide suggested phrases, but it can be very difficult to know what phrase should be used in your situation. The language can be unusual and sometimes difficult to interpret. I saw a will recently where a mother had intended to leave all of her assets to her own children, but the will actually left everything to the children of her husband. It was a classic “cut and paste” of a legal paragraph and it had been written by a family member who was trying to be helpful, but simply made the matter worse.

The number one problem with making your own will is that you cannot see the errors that have been made. Usually the first time that a lawyer gets to look at the home-made will is, sadly, after the person has died. Sometimes the errors can be corrected, but usually it does create tension and on a number of occasions, the errors made in the will have substantially added to the cost of administering the estate.

Another advantage of seeking specific advice is to ensure that your will and superannuation together lead to the best outcome. Most people do not realise that their superannuation is not necessarily going to be covered by their will. But with the advent of binding death benefit nominations it is possible to control the payout of your superannuation and you can still do it through your will. A lawyer is simply the best way to ensure that your beneficiaries receive their proper entitlement.