Keep the DIY on the deck this summer

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As you begin your summer DIY projects, be wary of making your Will one of them. A Will is an important legal document which sets out your wishes when you pass away, but it needs to be prepared properly to do its job. Let’s take a look at John’s scenario, which unfortunately, is something we see too often.

Respecting John’s wishes

John decided it was time to prepare his Will but was wary of the cost of visiting his lawyer and thought he would save money by using a DIY will kit.  He thought about where he’d like his assets to go and who he’d like to look after his Estate and jotted them down.

John thought his good mate Steve could be the Executor, and he knew Steve would appreciate his collection of vinyl records if John passed away, so he included this gift in his Will too. He typed it all up, and over a couple of beers one afternoon with Steve and their mate Joe, John asked Steve and Joe to witness his signature so his Will would be complete.

Unfortunately, John passed away sometime later. Steve, being keen to enjoy John’s record collection in remembrance, took John’s DIY Will to a lawyer to administer the estate. 

Steve’s lawyer, Jenny, promptly informed Steve that John’s Will was likely invalid as Steve, who was appointed executor and was also a beneficiary, had witnessed John’s signature. Typically, a witness needs to be someone independent; beneficiaries shouldn’t also be a witness as this could invalidate the Will.

With Jenny’s assistance Steve had to apply to the Court for Letters of Administration, which is a much more costly and time-consuming process than simply applying for Probate of a valid Will. Steve was disappointed that carrying out John’s wishes had become so much more complicated and costly than John intended.

Your Will needs to be drafted and executed properly

A Will sets out how you would like your assets to be dealt with after you’ve gone, how any family members under your care should be looked after and who you would like to carry out your wishes (the Executor/s).

It can be tempting to try save money by adopting a DIY approach but if you don’t follow the particular requirements of a Will, your Will may be invalid. In addition, any mistakes or omissions in your will may mean your wishes are not carried out as you intended. An invalid Will typically ends up costing your Estate a lot more than a visit to your local lawyer’s office on the outset.

A Will doesn’t have to be another costly expense at this time of year – take time to think about your assets and where you’d like them to go. This will help you to feel prepared when you seek advice from a lawyer who can ensure you have a properly executed Will. In the end this will give you and your loved ones peace of mind and allow you to get on with the other important things on your to do list – like building that new vege garden.  

How can we help?

If you need to prepare a new will, or update your current will, WRMK Lawyers’ experienced team can help. If you’d like advice about your will, relationship property, or estate planning arrangements, our friendly team of experienced local life planning lawyers are happy to help.

Our thanks to Courtney Clarke for writing this article, which was first published in the Mangawhai Focus in December 2023.