The short answer is no. There are many many reasons not to use a Will kit or to write your own Will.
If you desperately need a Will but can’t get in contact with a lawyer then the risks might be justified (say you’re lost in the desert or something) but otherwise, if it is worth having a Will then it is worth doing it right.
Obviously the main reason people do their own Wills is that Will kits are fairly cheap to purchase compared with the cost of a professionally drafted Will. But it is often the case that Will kits cost more later on.
Why? Because there are frequently problems with how Will kits and homemade Wills are drafted and signed.
When there are problems, extra supporting documentation will normally need to be prepared and lodged with the Supreme Court of South Australia when the time comes to apply for a Grant of Probate. Even for most minor problems, the cost of sorting it out can easily be much more expensive than the cost of getting a simple Will done with a lawyer (though that depends on the lawyer and the problem).
In the past, many types of technical defects would invalidate Wills completely. Our laws have come a long way towards making it possible to accept and correct Wills with defects, turning many fatal problems into smaller issues. But dealing with those defects can still be difficult, will cause delay and may cost thousands of dollars extra to handle.
For non-lawyers, making a Will is a “you don’t know what you don’t know” type of situation. It may sound easy to write down what you want to happen with your property but it’s actually also really easy to mess up.
Take this example: “I give my car and $40,000 to my brother Bob and I give the rest of my money to my sisters.”
A layperson may look at this and think that it’s fine. But we look at it and see a potential bunch of problems:-
- What is intended by “the rest of my money”? Is it just cash and money in the bank? Or other investments like shares and bonds? Superannuation? Debts that are owed? Refunds from nursing homes? Or all property? It could make a big difference and cost a lot to work out or fix up.
- If “money” is interpreted narrowly, then the Will probably won’t actually deal with all of the deceased’s property and would likely lead to an unintended result.
- Alternatively, let’s say that in this particular case a court decides that “money” was meant to include superannuation. But superannuation normally doesn’t start out as part of the estate of a deceased person and although the trustee of the super fund might pay the superannuation benefit to the estate (in which case the Will might apply to it) it might instead pay it directly to one or more dependents of the deceased (in which case the Will won’t control where it goes). For example, if one sibling had been living with the deceased then the trustee might decide to pay the superannuation to that sibling only.
- What if there’s not enough in the estate to pay Bob the full $40,000?
- What’s meant to happen if one or more of the siblings die first? Should their share go to the other siblings, or go to nieces and nephews?
- What if there’s more than one car?
- Could there be another sister out there?
Less than ideal
Since legal processes can be used to fix up minor mistakes, the risk of getting something severely wrong may not be so great for people who have simple circumstances and simple wishes and who are also able to fully understand and follow the instructions in the kits.
Nevertheless, there can be a real difference between simply having a valid and suitable Will and having a Will that has been drafted after consultation with someone who has experience in how to make Wills be more flexible, effective and future-proof.
Some people think that it’s fine to use a Will kit because they don’t have much to give away. That is relevant in the sense that the stakes are lower and it may also mean that probate isn’t required. And if probate isn’t required and everyone involved can agree on what to do, then it what might possible to work things out without much fuss. But failing that, what little you do have may be greatly diminished by legal costs on top of causing additional hassle and delay for your family.
Furthermore, there’s always the possibility that you may come into additional money before you die. E.g. by way of inheritance from another family member.