The hidden cost of a DIY Will kit: It can be thousands of dollars

You can buy a Will kit from your local newsagency or post office for about $20, follow the instructions and write your own Will.

What the Will kit doesn’t tell you is that the hidden cost of doing your Will this way can be thousands of dollars more than you realise.

What’s the problem with a DIY Will kit?

There is nothing wrong with a Will kit filled out at home that has been prepared, signed, witnessed and stored properly.

The problem is that it is very easy to get these things wrong.

In over 20 years of legal practice, we have only seen a few home-made Wills that have complied with the legal requirements for making a valid Will.

What sorts of things can cause problems with home-made Wills?

Some examples of the problems with Will kits include:

  1. The pages of the Will being held together by a paperclip
  2. The person making the Will giving only part of their estate away
  3. Clauses in the Will not making sense or conflicting with each other
  4. Words in the Will intending to mean one thing but actually meaning another
  5. Dirty marks, pencil marks or pen marks on the Will other than where signatures are written
  6. Changes being made to the Will without the changes being initialled by everyone signing the Will
  7. Changes being made to the Will after the Will is signed and witnessed.

These simple things can require a lot of extra work by a lawyer before an estate can be wound up.

Why are these simple things such a big problem?

We have very strict rules in South Australia about how Wills are to be prepared, signed, witnessed and stored.  This is to prevent any “funny business”.

Over the years, there have been many cases of people “fiddling” with Wills to benefit themselves.

Consider a son who has been left out of his mother’s Will.

He finds her Will after she has died and notices that it is held together with a paperclip. He notices that the third page gives all of her estate to his sister. He carefully removes the third page, types it so that it says that all his mother’s estate has been left equally between him and his sister. He then carefully inserts the new third page into the bundle of paper held together with a paperclip and takes the Will to a lawyer to administer his mother’s estate.

The lawyer and his sister are none the wiser.

What happens if there are problems with my DIY Will when I die?

If you die and you leave a DIY Will that has a problem with it, most of the time the problem can be fixed.

But fixing the problem takes time and money.

It means that your family will end up receiving less of your estate than they would have, because the legal costs to fix the problem can be thousands of dollars on top of the normal costs of administering the estate.

It often means that your family have to go back through their memories to give us evidence about the events leading up to the signing of your Will.

This is a really upsetting process for family members to go through when they are already having to come to terms with their loss.

When it comes to your Will, a lawyer is the only way to go for peace of mind

The only way you can ensure that you have a valid Will, is to get it properly prepared by a lawyer.

Consider it your insurance policy.

If you instruct a lawyer to prepare your Will properly now, you will prevent unnecessary legal costs and delays in the long run.


Image: Balancing The Account by Ken Teegardin via Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0