When it comes to estate planning, the saying “you get what you pay for” rings especially true amongst Wills and Estate practitioners. Unfortunately there is a public misconception that anyone can write a Will and anyone can prepare an Enduring Power of Attorney, that there is no need to see a Wills and Estates practitioner and it is just a matter of writing down your wishes, completing a form and signing.
This is far from the truth.
Importance of a proper legal advice
Obtaining the appropriate legal advice by engaging a competent Wills and Estates practitioner during the estate planning process can not only put your mind at rest, but can also avoid unnecessary costs; delay and legal disputes after you have died.
Every week I receive enquiries about the cheapest quote to prepare a simple Will and associated Estate Plan. I also get asked why people should not just use the DIY Will and DIY Enduring Power of Attorney kits available from the local post office or newsagent.
DIY Will Kits explained
The five (5) key issues I see with DIY Will Kits are as follows:-
- The Will is not properly signed according to law or dated properly.
- People only appoint one executor and no substitute (back-up) Executor. Therefore if the first appointed Executor dies, a Grant of letters of administration with the Will annexed need to be obtained from the Supreme Court to appoint a person to administer the estate.
- People give assets in their Will that they do not actually own. For example assets owned as joint tenants pass automatically to the surviving joint tenant holder outside your Will pursuant to ‘the right of survivorship.’
- The Testator (will-maker) does not dispose of their entire estate which creates to a partial intestacy. The estate not disposed of, then is distributed in accordance with the rules of intestacy.
- People do not realise the effect of marriage or divorce on a Will. Similar issues can be identified in the DIY Enduring Power of Attorney Kits.
Obviously these issues can cause unnecessary delay, stress and expense in the estate administration process.
The growing use of DIY kits and the readily available online templates is a concern to Wills and Estates practitioners. This is because the public seem to undervalue the services a competent practitioner working in this area provides to their clients and the complexities and risks involved in preparing a Will and/or Enduring Power of Attorney.
Estate planning by us can save you in the long run
When you engage a Wills and Estates practitioner to prepare your Estate planning documents, the price should not be your only consideration. Other considerations should include the competence of the practitioner (for example whether they specialise in Wills and Estates or dabble in a number of areas) and the complexity of your estate plan. Professional legal advice is invaluable if it provides you with peace of mind in relation to your estate plan.
From my experience the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten. A few extra dollars spent on the estate planning process can save your loved ones from unnecessary delay; stress and expense after you have passed away.