Should I make a will myself?

Date: Aug 09, 2012

While there is no legal requirement that says you need to enlist the help of a lawyer when you make a will, the Law Society of New South Wales asserts that drafting a will yourself is not in your best interests.

A will must fulfil a number of specified criteria to be valid - namely, your will must be made in writing, signed and witnessed by two people - and it also must be accepted by a court. Wills are put into effect by a grant of probate - and if your will does not fit the criteria, it will be deemed invalid.

In short, you need your will to be clear and to ensure it does not create any tax liabilities. You will also want to make sure it's drawn up properly so that you don't create any additional expensive, time-consuming or worrying legal procedures for your family if your will is found to be invalid.

Without a valid will, your case could end up in court and carry on for a long period of time - in some cases, this can be drawn out over several years. If you have drawn up a home-made will and it is found not to be valid, your property could be disposed of as though there was no will at all.

Legal formulas set out who is entitled to your property and assets if there is no will in place - this means that your assets may not be distributed in the way you may have wanted.

Enlisting the support of an experienced wills and estates lawyer can therefore have a number of benefits.

Your lawyer can help you ensure your will expresses your wishes clearly and can ensure you have satisfied the relevant legal requirements to ensure these are not contested. These can include leaving adequate provisions for a de facto partner or spouse, as well as any dependent children.
An experienced wills and estates lawyer can also provide you with advice about tax planning - in  particular, any capital gains tax liabilities that may result from your plans.

They can also help you explain how to choose an executor - the person who is responsible for handling your affairs after you die - and advise you on making any provisions to this individual for administering your estate.

Finally, in many cases, your lawyer can keep your will in a safe place for you - although it is advised that you also keep a copy for yourself. It is also advisable to let your executor know where your will is kept.