More than 45% of Australians don’t have a valid Will. If you die without one, your hardearned wealth (your estate) will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy – a government-determined formula. That may not divide your estate as you would like, and if your family consists only of distant relatives your assets could end up enriching your state government’s coffers.
If that’s convinced you that a Will is a good idea, how do you go about making one?
There are three main options:
1. Engage a solicitor
Using a solicitor to prepare your Will, particularly one who specialises in estate planning, is most likely to deliver the desired result. If your situation calls for anything more than the most basic of Wills, for example if there is a family business, disabled dependents, or complex family or financial structures, an estate planning lawyer will be able to provide advice on how to best structure your Will.
The downside is the upfront cost. This can range from a few hundred dollars for a straightforward Will to several thousand dollars where the situation is more complicated.
2. Use a trust company
There are public or state trustees in each state and territory, as well as a number of private trustee companies. They are specialists in preparing Wills and can also act as the executor of an estate. A private trustee will charge a few hundred dollars to prepare a Will, and the estate will be charged a fee when the trustee performs the role of executor. Some public trustees will waive the fee to prepare or update a Will if they also act as the executor.
3. Do it yourself
Will kits are available from newsagents, post offices, the Internet and other sources. Doing it yourself certainly appears to be the cheapest option, but if something goes wrong, the cost of putting things right may dwarf the initial savings.
Common problems with DIY Wills include:
- Ambiguous wording that may need to be ruled on by a court. Fixing this can cost big dollars.
- The Will is not properly signed or witnessed. This can invalidate the Will.
- The Will covers only part of the estate. The remainder will be dealt with under the rules of intestacy (i.e. your state government decides).
- The Will contains unenforceable or unreasonable conditions, such as leaving out a gift to an entitled beneficiary. This can also lead to expensive legal bills.
- Business ownership issues may be overlooked or not properly addressed.
Involving your Financial Planner
Your financial planner can’t prepare a Will, but as the professional most likely to have a detailed overview of your financial and personal circumstances, we often find ourselves as the person best equipped to identify estate planning issues and to brief your estate planning lawyer.
We may also be able to refer you to an estate planning expert and work with them to create a Will that will deliver a smooth transfer of wealth at a time of great personal distress for your loved ones.
General Advice Disclaimer
This article contains general advice only, which has been prepared without taking into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any person. You should, therefore, consider the appropriateness of the information in light of your own objectives, financial situation or needs and read all relevant Product Disclosure Statements before acting on the information. Whilst every care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the material, Paradigm Strategic Planning or Sentry Advice Pty Ltd will not bear responsibility or liability for any action taken by any person, persons or organisation on the purported basis of information contained herein. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, no person, persons or organisation should invest monies or take action on reliance of the material contained herein but instead should satisfy themselves independently of the appropriateness of such action.
Paradigm Strategic Planning Pty Ltd is an Authorised Representative of Sentry Advice Pty Ltd AFSL 227748