We have written previously in our FGD blog about the dangers of using a DIY Will Kit. However, cases such as that of the Estate of Peter Reid highlight the extent to which it could all go pear-shaped if a Will is done incorrectly.
The deceased, Mr. Reid, left a $76 million dollar estate. He was not survived by a wife or children. During his lifetime, he prepared a DIY Will, and over the years he prepared 22 codicils (amendments and adjustments) to the Will. The documents were drafted poorly, and it was therefore very difficult to discern what his intentions were. This resulted in three years of litigation to get an answer.
Consequently, following his death, what can only be described as a village of people made a challenge on his very large estate, include nieces, nephews and step-children – totally 40 people. The costs of the resulting family conflict were enormous, both financially and personally. How’s that for a false economy.
For those of us who specialise in this field, we can only cringe at the thought of:
- a DIY Will
- a DIY codicil (much less 22!)
- and the fact had he sought proper advice, the extensive litigation and legal costs, not to mention the huge family rifts, could have been avoided.
As we are a specialised estate planning team here at FGD, we receive our fair share of inquiries regarding. our services and consequently also the question: ‘Why can’t we just do it ourselves; what’s the difference?’
The answer is that we all think of our own circumstances as being simple. But you just don’t know what you don’t know.
Regardless of the type of Will you prepare: simple or complex, trust or non-trust, wills that incorporate estate planning strategies or not, you can be sure that your solicitor will do the following:
- Take a holistic view of your financial and family circumstance;
- Review what your wishes are, including who you wish to manage your estate, who will have control of estate funds, and how it is divided between your beneficiaries;
- Based on the above, identify areas of risk that may be relevant, risks that you may never have thought relevant to your circumstances.
Some of the common complicating factors that we find in our clients’ circumstances where risks can be mitigated through proper estate planning are:
• Blending family dynamics
• Tax planning
• Self-managed superannuation funds
• Company and trust structures
• Including testamentary trusts in each of your Wills
• Queries relating to guardians of children
• Complex gifts
• Elderly beneficiaries
• Risks of challenges to your Wills
These complexities do not necessarily translate to a complex document. However, in speaking to an experienced estate planner you will be aware of these risks and will have the reassurance that you have taken the advice needed to secure your estate’s position when you are no longer around.
The management of Mr. Reid’s estate could have been so much simpler if he had sought legal advice in relation to his estate planning. If done properly, his solicitors would have identified that his current Will was inadequate and incorrectly prepared and that there are myriad people who may have a claim of his estate if not provided for under his Will. Following that, Mr. Reid could have prepared a Will which was valid, but also have put in place strategies to protect his assets and to ensure his estate was divided in accordance with his wishes.
It is safe to say that nobody wishes for there to be a legal dispute over their assets after death.
Don’t do what Mr. Reid did. Seek advice and do it early, and have your Will and estate planning prepared correctly.
If you do have a DIY Will and want to know if you should be worried, we are happy to provide you with an honest review of your DIY Will at no cost to you.