Why drafting a will requires careful planning and expert advice

Date: Dec 14, 2011

The important task of drafting a will is sometimes put off because of a lack of understanding over just how to go about the process.

It could be that an individual is uncertain of the legal requirements they need to meet with their estate planning activities, or that they are unfamiliar with the document's correct structure.

While these are valid concerns, it is important to recognise that deliberately leaving yourself intestate for fear of putting a foot wrong with a poorly-phrased instruction is just as bad an outcome for the loved ones the will is meant for.

The results could be unwelcome for family and close friends as personal considerations are not the main focus of a state-appointed administrator.

To this end it is important for those writing a will to have a thorough understanding of the details of their assets.

This includes the correct details of ownership for properties - taking into account any details of shared ownership and liabilities - as well as shares, bonds or other investments.

In this way you can potentially save your loved ones the trial of having to trawl through any number of records to find the correct details legally needed to be administer an estate.

Another important consideration to be aware of is the emphasis placed on the specific wording used in a will.

There have been a number of cases where parties have decided to challenge a will based on an ambiguous turn of phrase or where they feel that the estate is to be divided in an unfair manner that does not take their situation into account.

This is especially true for close relatives such as family members, ex-partners, adopted children and spouses.

Recent research has reportedly shown a high proportion of estate dispute cases involving siblings have resulted in "disproportionate" outcomes.

The findings of a report prepared for the Australasian Institute of Judicial Administration by law professor Prue Vines has identified that nearly 50 per cent of cases involving brothers and sisters in NSW end up with the legal costs coming close to - or sometimes outweighing - the financial benefits.

Speaking on the possible reasons behind these rates, Vines told The Age on December 14 that they were probably : "an expression of the fact that sibling rivalry is a lifelong psychological construct which is hardly likely to melt away with ease".

For these reasons it is important to make sure that a will is both valid and clearly worded to help avoid ongoing disputes between family members.