DIY Wills Suck

Online Wills and DIY Will Kits have long been heralded as a saviour for the time-poor (or just poor in general).  But are they all they're cracked up to be? Everything you need to know before you DIY your will.

Do It Yourself

I often get asked what I think of DIY wills.  I used to be too scared to say "They suck balls" and instead would say "I don't hate them".  But actually, I do hate them (but absolutely NOT the people who make them).

Nothing upsets me more than receiving a phone call from a family who has just had a loved one die and they’re swimming, no drowning, in a monumentally huge puddle of fresh hell that’s been created by a rubbish will, a punishing will or a DIY will that's unlikely to hold water.

When I first started Your Estate Lawyer I would regularly get asked what I think of DIY wills (I don't get asked so much anymore, so clearly people are getting the message!).

For a long time I used to say “any will is better than no will”, and I truly believed that.  However, over the few years when it’s been my business to triage the fallout from poorly written wills, I’ve entirely changed my mind.

Surely any will is better than no will

Most people understand if they don't have a will they're taking a risk that someone else will make decisions on their behalf.

I liken it to deciding to ride motorbike backwards. With no helmet. Wearing stilettos! Chances are high if things go sideways there will be consequences - but everyone knows the risks.

However, when someone goes to the trouble of downloading or buying a DIY will kit that suggests to me they know the risks and are trying to avoid the consequences. What they don't realise is DIY wills often create bigger consequences than anyone can predict or anticipate.

Writing your will requires technical considerations to ensure the document you're writing is legally binding. It requires advice about whether what you "want" to do is legal.

Wills that are written without understanding of the risks and consequences of your decisions can create unintended burdens or huge problems for the people you leave behind.

DIY wills are easy to get wrong

More than once in my life I have grabbed two conditioner bottles and inadvertently left the shampoo bottle I actually needed on the supermarket shelf. It's easy to make mistakes without even trying.

If you DIY your will, even if you're using a template, it needs to be filled in properly in order for it to be valid.

Something as simple as a spelling error, a description that's too vague, an incorrect date of birth, or even the wrong type of crossing-out or tearing the will out of the instruction booklet can invalidate your will or make things hard (and expensive) for your family after your death.

A DIY will can't give you advice

Your will is an opportunity to get clear on your wishes and put plans in place for the future, not just distribute your assets.  It's so much more than just a piece of paper.

Like many areas of life, when it comes to wills most of us don’t know what we don’t know. Within minutes of talking to my clients during their first estate planning meeting we normally come across some misconception or a wish that can’t be legally executed.

DIY wills do not help you with these decisions or explain the ramifications or legal process required to communicate your wishes through your will.

A DIY will isn't a craft project

Many people like their wills to reflect the glorious, colourful richness of their lives - and that’s absolutely OK. The problem is that getting creative with a DIY will increases the risk of omissions or errors, which could cause unnecessary confusion, stress, time and legal expense for your family and loved ones after you've died.

I’ve known families who’ve been left with nothing after a creative DIY will has been through the courts and the legacy left behind is a beautiful scrapbook but broken relationships and hearts.

If you have your will drafted by a lawyer you can make it as personal and colourful as you like AND make sure it’s legally watertight.


One of my favourite sayings is 'things don’t matter, people do'. I believe that wills are actually more about people - and love - than money and things.

Unfortunately many people use a DIY will to punish or reward in ways they would struggle to justify or explain if they had to communicate their thoughts out loud. Estate planning with an experienced professional isn't about changing your heart but it does provide an opportunity to pressure test (or kindness test) your wishes and find ways to achieve the same outcome without the fall out.


Like any DIY project, will kits are marketed as a quick, easy, inexpensive alternative to a professional service. And like any other DIY project the results are never the same as employing a professional to help guide you.

If you've ever tried to DIY anything - the fancy birthday cake you saw on Pinterest, painting your brown bathroom tiles white, the weekend bookshelf project from Bunnings - you'll know the end result rarely looks like it did in the pictures - because let's face it chances are high you're not a baker, or a painter, or a carpenter. The difference is, if I DIY a fancy dinner that I saw in a magazine and I burn it, I can take my family out for food that someone else cooked (or scrape off the burnt bits). If you DIY your will and don't get it right (because chances are high that like I'm no chef, you're not a lawyer) the results can be catastrophic.

Do you or a loved one have a DIY will and not sure if it will hold up?  Click the link below for a no obligation chat about where your estate plan is at.

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