Do you need a lawyer for Estate Planning?
Writing your own Will might seem like a cheaper option now; however, it can cause problems and end up far more costly for your estate down the track.
Often handwritten or DIY Wills do not comply with the formal requirements for a valid Will. If your Will is not properly prepared and executed in accordance with the legal requirements, further evidence may be required to support an application to the Court if it is required to obtain a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration. This can result in delays and increased costs in the administration of your estate.
Complications can also arise if any of the wording in your DIY Will is ambiguous. If your intentions are not clearly explained in your Will, gifts may fail. Any ambiguity may require an application to be made to the Court. Evidence would then need to be provided in relation to your intention for the Court to interpret your Will which would be likely to result in significant legal fees for your estate.
There are also witnessing requirements and should someone who has an interest in your estate be a witness to the signing of your Will, they may forfeit their entitlement to receive the gift. We’ve also had cases where it was necessary to track down witnesses to provide further evidence regarding the execution of DIY Wills as they were not correctly signed.
Problems can also arise if your Will does not provide alternate provisions, such as what happens to someone’s share of your estate if they have predeceased you. Our solicitors can include back up provisions that reflect your wishes. For example, you may choose whether their share would pass to their children equally, or you may specify that gift would then pass to another friend or family member. If you don’t have alternate provisions stated in your Will, it may be that part of your estate would not be covered, known as a partial intestacy, in which case the intestacy provisions Will apply and your estate may be distributed to family members who you do not wish to benefit.
Even if you feel that you do not have a large estate at this time, we strongly recommend that everyone over the age of eighteen has a valid Will and estate planning documents in place in case something unexpected was to occur. A simple Will states how you want your assets to be divided and who you wish to act as the executor of your estate and they Will be responsible for administering your estate in accordance with your wishes. If you do not have a Will, someone in your family may need to apply to the Court to be appointed as the administrator of your estate and generally the costs involved in your estate being split in accordance with the intestacy provisions Will be higher than if you have simple, valid Will in place.
At Cornerstone Law Offices, our experienced solicitors Will take the time to run through details of your family situation and assets and try to avoid problems and potential claims against your estate. Such issues can be costly and distressing for your family members to deal with after your pass away and can cause delays in the administration of your estate.
We can also prepare other estate planning documents for you, such as an Enduring Power of Attorney and Advance Health Directives. These documents apply during your lifetime and assist if you lose the capacity to make decisions for yourself, such as whether you happen to be involved in an accident or suffer from dementia. We have seen many documents which have been prepared at home which have not been fully completed or properly executed. This can result in the documents being invalid or unable to be registered at the time when they are needed. Once someone loses capacity, it is too late for them to prepare new documents which can result in difficulties in managing their affairs.