Published 12 Jun 2017
Writing a will is one of the most important parts of estate planning, as it enables you to clearly outline how you want your assets distributed to beneficiaries upon your death.
Despite this, the Australian Securities & Investments Commission estimates that approximately half of people in the country die without completing this key document.
Some people feel they don't have enough assets to warrant a will, while others may simply forget to write one before it's too late. However, the cost of hiring a solicitor to produce, update and retain a will can also be off-putting for individuals.
Instead, you may be tempted to write your own will, but does this constitute a valid, legal document? Let's take a closer at how self-written wills work and examine the advantages and drawbacks.
Writing your own will
There are a number of online resources to help you write your own will, including detailed examples, templates and other guidance. You can also buy DIY will-writing kits if you are determined to forgo professional assistance.
Writing your own will is often cheaper than seeking the services of a solicitor, but there are a number of disadvantages to this approach. First, if you fail to sign the document or have it witnessed correctly, the will may be deemed invalid.
Second, online templates and DIY kits may not take into account regional differences in succession laws. In other words, your will might not be appropriately tailored for the legal system in your state or territory.
Last, you may have complex estate-planning needs, such as setting up trusts, handling multiple business interests or assets abroad and other complications that make a DIY will impractical.
Contesting a will
Many of the above drawbacks mean that your will is more likely to be at the centre of an inheritance dispute or intestacy rules, which could result in your final wishes not being fulfilled.
Inheritance disputes can lead to family rifts, a reduction in the value of your estate due to legal costs and your chosen beneficiaries receiving fewer provisions than you had hoped.
Meanwhile, if you've been left out of a will or believe the provisions you've received are insufficient, you could have a better chance of winning a settlement if the deceased failed to seek professional help when writing a will.
Do you have more questions about self-written wills and inheritance disputes? Please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Will Dispute Lawyers.