If you’ve started writing your Will, you’ve taken the first steps to ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your wishes and your family supported. However, even with the best intentions, mistakes can get in the way of a Will being approved.
A mistake when writing a Will can undermine its validity, and the wishes left in it. Something which can seem minor to you or me, could be seen as a write off in the courts. And with the stakes high and cost of issues higher still, it’s worth getting right first time. Afterall, you don’t really get a second chance at this whole end-of-life ordeal.
Unfortunately however, getting your Will ‘right’ is about more than taking care. With a minefield of legal loopholes to jump through, language to use and processes to navigate- things can get tricky.
It’s why some seek out the support of a lawyer, why others get stung by DIY Will kits and why many choose to put it off all together.
Learning from the common mistakes of others can help you avoid trouble (and money) further down the road. But before we dive in, let's take a closer look at what actually makes a Will valid, whether an online version counts and why it’s so important to get it right.
What Makes a Will Valid?
When it comes to writing a valid Will, there's some fundamental requirements for making it happen. So before you fall at the first hurdle, here's what to keep in mind before you start writing your Will:
Testamentary Capacity: The person creating the Will, known as the testator, must have the mental capacity to understand the nature and effect of their actions when making the Will.
Intent: The testator must also clearly express their intention to create a legally binding document that outlines their asset distribution wishes. Doubts over either of the above can create undue influence concerns, and risk the validity of the entire Will.
In Writing: Additionally, a Will must be in writing. While this can be typed or handwritten, a physical copy must be signed by the testator and someone in their presence.
Witnesses: The Will must be witnessed by at least two independent witnesses who are present at the time of signing and who also sign the Will.
Being of sound mind, clear intent and having a physical copy signed by two witnesses will ensure your Will is valid- making probate easier and the transfer of assets that bit smoother.
So whether you start the process online or on paper, in theory, writing a valid Will is simple. However, add complex family dynamics, human error and rushed processes into the mix, and it’s all too common that issues arise.
So, what do people get wrong?
Not Seeking Professional Advice:
Online Will services have revolutionised the world of estate planning. They make it easier, cheaper and more accessible- helping more people write their Will and have access to the benefits.
The flip side? With services expanding and price being driven down- the level of legal support in these ‘DIY Will kits’ is dwindling, whilst mistakes simultaneously increase.
Writing your Will without the guidance, support or approval of an estate planning lawyer can leave you vulnerable to inaccuracies. Whether that's the language you’ve used or the way you’ve had it signed- it’s more likely that going completely solo will leave issues unflagged.
With Safewill, we offer an affordable online Will platform which doesn’t cut corners on legal advice. Write your Will from the comfort of your own home, and with the peace of mind that it’s been checked over by specialist estate lawyers.
Or, for more complex estates, seek advice tailored to your estate and learn how to maximise the effectiveness of your Will.
2. Ambiguous Language and Unclear Instructions:
Using the wrong language might seem minor. But when ambiguous or vague language creates uncertainty in interpretation, this creates an open window for disputes and challenges.
The last thing you want is family disputes after you're gone. Even worse, is the scenario where uncertainty in your Will sparks and exacerbates these conflicts.
3. Inadequate Consideration of Assets and Beneficiaries:
Asset inventory might sound boring. But when faced with a costly legal headache further down the line, it becomes an integral part of your estate plan.
Take time to ensure that you comprehensively list all your’e assets. This includes property, investments, bank accounts, and personal belongings, as well as things like cryptocurrency and other digital components of your estate.
Similarly, think about who you want to support after you're gone and who might be entitled to a share of your’e estate. Dividing things fairly can avoid family disputes and upset, so it’s worth taking some time to decide.
4. Poor Executor Selection:
An executor can make or break the ease of estate administration. Whilst it might not invalidate your Will, choosing an inappropriate or unqualified executor can create delays and errors in distributing your assets- ultimately undermining the motive to write one.
Select someone trustworthy and competent to fulfil these responsibilities, and be sure to discuss this role with them in advance.
5. Failure to Update the Will:
Much like life, your Will shouldn't be static. Keeping your estate plan up to date with marriage, divorce, children or changes in financial circumstances ensures that it not only remains valid, but it reflects your current wishes.
Do You Need a Lawyer to Write a Will?
Going by Australian Law, you're well within your rights to write your Will by yourself. But with so many potential mistakes to make and consequences to incur, it’s no wonder many people hire a lawyer.
Whilst this can provide peace of mind and ensure validity, a lawyer also comes with a hefty price to pay and an inflexible schedule to work around. This can add to stress, prevent you from Will writing and leave your family unprovided for when the time comes.
So, if writing your Will alone is risky and a lawyer inaccessible- what's the answer?
Safewill Can Help
Write your Will with Safewill, and have the best of both worlds- with an online Will which is affordable and approved by specialist estate lawyers. It’s easy, it’s flexible and it’s the peace of mind where it matters most.