Writing a Will can ease stress for both you and your loved ones by providing you with peace of mind that your assets will be dealt with in the way you decide. However, often people wonder if it is worth getting a lawyer to write a Will for them, or whether they can write it themselves.
Are Lawyers Necessary to Write a Will?
While DIY Will kits can be found on websites, in post offices and sometimes from life insurance companies, it is not advisable to use these services.
Common mistakes made by people who choose to do their own Will include not signing the document properly, not having it witnessed correctly, and trying to bequeath assets or part of their estate that they don’t have full legal ownership over. Not only can this create significant conflict after someone’s death, it also takes longer to resolve, and more importantly costs much more to allocate assets if a Will has not been created properly.
Step 1: Drafting Your Will
Though fees can vary, you can organise a fairly simple Will with a lawyer for approximately $500–$800. It is recommended that you update your Will every five years, or when significant life events happen, such as buying a house, getting married or divorced, or having children.
Step 2: Consider All Possible Situations
Try to think of future scenarios that may impact the execution of your Will. It is vital to address scenarios where you and the named beneficiaries in your Will pass away at the same time. As a backup option, you may want to name someone outside of your immediate family, or a charity as an alternative beneficiary. By anticipating these alternative situations, you have a number of alternative scenarios built into your Will.
Step 3: Select an Executor
It is important that you choose someone you trust and who will be able to administer you estate according to your wishes to be the executor of your Will. You must notify the executor that you have chosen them so they can be prepared. This is the person you name in your Will to delegate your estate – your money and assets.
Step 4: Decide on Your Power of Attorney
Take this opportunity to consider appointing a power of attorney. You need to prepare for a situation in which you are incapable of making decisions due to being injured or sick. You can prepare for this by organising a power of attorney, so that you may choose who would act on your behalf in those scenarios. This person would be responsible for making financial and legal decisions. You can appoint more than one person to have power of attorney.
Step 5: Draft a Care Plan
In a care plan you are able to leave detailed instructions around your future care. You may have certain decisions already made around resuscitation on life support, pain relief and organ donation. Put your preferences in writing by completing an ‘Advance Care Directive’ and nominating someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. Some care plans are incorporated in a Deed of Enduring Guardianship.
Step 6: Store Your Important Documents Safely
Finally, it is recommended that you draft a document with all your important passwords and account details. This may include bank account details, debts (including loans), investments, insurance and superannuation details. You may choose to store this information in an envelope with your Will, saying, ‘Open in the event of my death’, or something similar. We allow clients the opportunity to store important documents with us (in safe custody) without charge to them.
It is important to be fully aware of what it takes to make a Will and other related documents and obtain professional legal assistance to ensure your wishes are accurately represented in those documents. If you would like further information regarding Wills or general Wills/ Power of Attorney / Guardianship advice, please do not hesitate to contact one of our experienced estate planning solicitors on (02) 9963 9800 or via email or via our contact form.