Four things to think about before completing a DIY will
One of the questions I often get asked is “Do I need a lawyer to make a will?”
And the answer is no – you don’t need a lawyer to make a will, and you can use a DIY will
But there are lots of things to think about when putting your will together, including
technical points to ensure the document is legally binding, and practical considerations
about the best way to distribute your estate.
Here’s what you need to watch out for:
1. DIY wills are easy to get wrong
DIY wills are marketed as a simple solution for time-poor people – and in many ways
they are. But we all make mistakes (more than once in my life I have grabbed two
conditioner bottles and left the shampoo bottle on the supermarket shelf) and even the
simplest will needs to be filled out properly in order for it to be valid.
The problem with DIY wills is that there’s no-one to check it for you once it’s done.
Something as simple as a spelling error, a too-vague description, or even the wrong type
of crossing-out can invalidate your will or make things hard for your family after your
2. A piece of paper can’t give you advice
There’s so much to think of when it comes to estate planning. So much more than just a
piece of paper, your will is an opportunity to get clear on your wishes and put plans in
place for the future.
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.
There’s no-one to help you with these decisions with a DIY will.
DIY wills are a bit like me attempting to follow a recipe (cooking is not my forte). I don’t
always follow the recipe properly. I burn the food or it turns out weird. My cooking is an
easy mistake to fix: I scrape off the burnt bits or take the family out to a restaurant for
some professionally cooked magic. But the outcome of a badly-written will can be
devastating for families.
3. For most of us, life is colourful
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. I’ve known families who’ve been left with
nothing after a will has been through the courts.
If you have your will drafted by a lawyer you can make it as personal and colourful as
you like, while making sure it’s legally watertight.
DIY wills are designed for simple estates but the reality is that most estates – and most
lives – just aren’t simple. They’re as rich and individual as we are.
4. Your life is important
One of my favourite sayings is that things don’t matter, people do. And I believe that wills
are actually more about people – and love – than money and things.
Sure, the money side of wills is important. But wills are also about passing on a message
to your loved ones: that they were important to you, that they were loved and cared for.
It’s also about saving them from tough decision-making further down the track.
Your life matters. How you are remembered matters. Paper is cheap. Estate planning
advice – and making sure your loved ones are looked after – is priceless.
I don’t hate DIY wills
Really, I don’t. They’ve made estate planning accessible for thousands of people. But
they’re not a panacea and they do need to be handled with caution.
If you’ve got a DIY will, here’s what I suggest: get a professional to give it the once-over.
Whether that’s me or another estate lawyer you trust, I guarantee you’ll sleep more
soundly at night knowing whether it’s watertight or not.
I offer free will checks to help you do just that. No obligation, no strings attached.
Contact me to arrange a time for yours.
– We’re all walking each other home – Ram Dass