8 min read

Online Wills vs DIY Will Kits: What's the difference?

DIY Will Kits and online Wills are both easy and cost-effective ways to obtain that all important legal document to safeguard all your assets, appoint a legal guardian, engage in effective financial planning and conduct your estate administration. But do they both provide a legal will which covers these estate plan basics? Are your loved ones better looked after in one or the other? And which option will save you the most money in creating this new will? We provide a step by step guide on the important differences to be aware of.

Laptop with notebook and forms

Will kits and online Wills are both cost-effective and practical. Today we offer a comparison of these important documents to help determine which is the best choice for you, your estate assets and your family members.

We're living in an age where answers to virtually every question are at our fingertips (think Google, Wikipedia, and even Facebook). With such easy access to online knowledge, we've entered a whole new world of creative avenues-from making sourdough and tending exotic plants to tackling tricky renovation projects.

Estate planning and Will making are no different. They've entered a new era where a hands-on, DIY attitude is combining with modern technology to enter a new era of estate planning.

Modern Australians have caught on to the fact they no longer need to pay an estate attorney for an expensive Will that may be more complicated than they need. Added to that is the fact that using a full service lawyer can be complicated, costly and time consuming. For years, this has generated substantial financial and time barriers to wills; contributing to a widespread reluctance to tackle estate planning and a resulting high rate of Australians who have died intestate.

As wills have caught up to the 21st century, many Australians are turning consideration and their estate planning business to DIY Will kits and online Wills.

So what exactly are the options to make a DIY Will or online Will in Australia and how do they compare?

What is a Will kit?

You can buy a DIY Will kit from a wide range of businesses and organisations including:

  • News agencies
  • Australia Post and other post offices
  • insurance companies
  • the public trustee office in your state or territory (NSW, VIC, QLD, SA, ACT, WA, NT, TAS)

Some estate planning or seniors' organisations may even offer a free Will kit.

While DIY Will kits are cheap and simple to use, they come with some important caveats:

Are DIY Wills a legal document?

Without anyone checking to make sure a Will kit has been filled out correctly, Will writers are liable to incorrectly fill out their Will. Whether it's through populating it with items that are either not possible for their executor to achieve, or missing key sections, these mistakes may jeoporadize the creation of a valid will. In this way, the benefit of low cost DIY will may in fact be offset by the lack of support and risk a person's property, bank accounts or personal items are consequently are left without a valid will to protect them. All of these situations incur a risk that the Will may be ineffective in court when the time comes to use it. This can leave grieving families responsible to pay steep probate fees, whilst also risking family disputes about how investments and other assets should be distributed.

Downside of financial planning with Australia Post & other DIY will kits

Lack of flexibility

The issue with these services, is that they are usually paper based and static- meaning they can't be easily updated to reflect your current circumstances. As Wills are supposed to be reflective of your current wishes for what should happen when you die, this rigidity can create issues given that our wishes may change over time. This could be due to changes in relationships- impacting the money assigned to a specific beneficiary, or the appointment of power of attorney or guardian to minor children.

Assets vulnerable without valid will

Similarly, changes in circumstances, such as growing families or marriage, could also influence how you deal with your death plans and current assets. A paper-based form cannot be readily changed to meet current circumstances, and so need to be destroyed and replaced each time a significant change needs to be made. If a change isn't reflected in a Will, and the document is left out of date, or if it isn't kept in a safe place and gets lost, then there is a risk this person will die intestate. Leaving ambiguities after death on which beneficiaries receive the remaining assets and money.

Inability to deal with complex estates

Australia Post & other DIY Will kits only cover the most basic estate planning scenarios. In more complex situations, unfortunately, they can fall short when it comes to providing a legal will plan to distribute your estate's assets. Having a private organisation, shares or a self managed super fund may all be situations that need a more considered approach, and the same goes for guardianship of children and blended family situations. As a new Will kit generally doesn't offer advice on what is required in these scenarios, or when to contact bespoke legal attorney, the legal protections you may be trying to put in place during retirement or at any age, may not be there.

To Wrap Up DIY Will Kits

In summary, while DIY Will kits offer a simple and cheap option to make a Will, they may leave you with some worrying gaps in your estate planning. Leaving your family business and property vulnerable to delays before they are distributed, with loved ones lacking the power to effectively deal with these assets and benefit from a valid will. Similarly, if the criteria for a legal will is not met, the enduring powers of any appointed power of attorney may be at risk.

What is an online Will?

Online Wills are a quick and easy way to create a legal will

An online Will allows you to turn estate planning instructions entered via a specially designed digital platform into a downloadable, printable document that you can sign and have witnessed.

Safewill is an example of an online Will platform that offers a simple, affordable and user-friendly way to create your Will, in less than 20 minutes, and from the comfort of your home. Theres no need for an appointment, yet you have the constant option to contact our team for expert advice. Whether it's how to assign property to a specific beneficiary, fill out a specific form or deal with an estate in the aftermath of a sudden death- Safewill offers constant support without the need to pay extra fees each time.

Online Wills have the option to tailor your Will more closely to your circumstances.

Whilst online Wills are designed to cover the basic features of Will writing (including executorship, property management, appointing guardians for your children, and estate distribution), they also provide greater optionality in what you can list and appoint to suit your needs. On top of the basic inclusions, online Will platforms give you the ability to leave more complex instructions such as specific gifts, pet care provisions, charitable donations, and even specify funeral wishes should the worst case scenario happen and you die suddenly. It transforms a Will from being a black and white legal document to a holistic representation of your life and wishes. Our Platform, for example, extends as far as allowing you to leave notes for your executor in respect of locating the totality of your estate and property, and the different types of assets that you hold.

Online Wills provide access to support and guidance.

Rather than being left to answer your own questions or try to make sense of legal language, Safewill offers extensive live support to ensure you are guided throughout the process of filling out your Will. Safewill's support team is available to help at the click of a button, and is there to answer any questions you may have about the Will writing process.

Online Wills are kept up to date with changes to the law.

Many online will-writing platforms have been made in collaboration with lawyers, and are based on and updated to reflect current estate law. Some, like Safewill, even include having a lawyer review your application prior to finalising your Will to ensure you have filled out the questionnaire correctly. This provides a measure of comfort that you have filled out the Will completely that is often missing from DIY Will kits.

Online Wills are easy to update.

An important advantage over paper based DIY Will kits is that, being housed online, they're extremely easy to update when one of the following circumstances apply:

  • you get married or divorced
  • change in property ownership
  • you have children
  • you acquire a major new asset
  • death of a beneficiaries
  • Your wishes change

Safewill offers a cost effective subscription service that notifies you when there are changes to the law and allows you to make unlimited changes to your Will when you need to.

Online Wills offer an easy means of safe storage.

Paper based Will kits are prone to be misplaced, and often an Executor or beneficiaries may not even know that there is a Will in existence if it can't be located. Safewill allows you to securely store a digital copy of your signed Will, giving you the added peace of mind that your Will can always be located. You can even notify your Executor that your Will is stored with Safewill, providing an added measure of security that your document can be accessed by those who need it, when they need it.

To Wrap up online wills

Above all, online Wills like Safewill give you a streamlined and easy to understand process to complete your Will in no time at all. They use moden technology to provide a better, cheaper and more accessible means of writing your Will than has ever been possible.

Get started with your online Will today.

Last updated 27th August 2022
Tali Weinberg
Head Of Operations