Writing a will was traditionally considered an expensive and time-consuming exercise which involved hours spent talking to a solicitor and racking up legal fees. Now, with the advent of the internet and the popularity of DIY-everything, will preparation has been taken down a new – much quicker and much cheaper – path.
A quick Google search reveals just how many websites are keen to offer you an online will – many for a fraction of the cost of a will prepared by a law firm. But… is using an online will service risky? Is an online will legally binding? And, if you’re keen to go there, how do you make your online will?
In this guide, we answer all your questions and cover everything you need to know about making an online will, including:
- Why should I write a will?
- What is an online will?
- Are online wills good or risky?
- Online wills – the pros
- Online wills – the cons
You can also download our free Online Will Planning Kit to help you get started on making a legally binding online will.
1. Why should I write a will?
Not many people are good at talking about death, especially if it’s their own. When it comes to making plans for what happens when you pass away, it can be tempting to simply close your eyes to the issue in the hope that it will be someone else’s problem once you’re gone. But taking the time to prepare a will is important because it gives you the opportunity to determine some key things about the possessions and the people that you leave behind. For example, writing a will lets you dictate who your assets go to, so you can ensure your family is adequately provided for. It also means that you choose the person/s who will be legal guardians of your children.
If you die without leaving a will, the courts will distribute your estate in accordance with a legislated formula, leading to results which may be very different from what you would have wanted.
2. What is an online will?
Online will services generally offer an online ‘interview’ where the user inputs answers to a variety of questions. A will document incorporating that information is then generated and provided to the user for a fee. The will can be printed and must be correctly signed and witnessed.
3. Are online wills good or risky?
Are online wills good or risky? The short answer is, if purchased from a trusted and reputable provider, and used with significant attention to detail, online wills can be a great option for those with simple and straightforward circumstances. But, if used incorrectly or purchased from a company simply trying to make a quick buck, using an online service can mean the will you get does not properly convey your wishes or – worse – is not legal or valid.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of using an online will.
4. Online wills – the pros
There are numerous – fairly obvious – upsides to using an online will. Online will services are cheaper, quicker and more convenient than the more traditional process of seeing a wills lawyer. Online wills require no appointment, can be done from the comfort of your living room, and can provide a less confronting experience for those who find it difficult to discuss their death.
5. Online wills – the risks
If you like the idea of using an online will, it’s important to choose a reputable and trusted provider. It’s also important to remain mindful of the risks associated with online wills – identifying and addressing these risks can avoid significant stress and misery for both you and your loved ones.
The risks associated with using an online will tend to fall into 2 categories:
- Risks of using an online will when your circumstances are more complicated than those that online wills are intended to provide for.
- Risk of using an online will in the absence of adequate legal (and other professional) advice.
It is important to note that online wills are intended to be used by those with simple and straightforward circumstances. For example, if you have minimal assets and wish to leave everything to your significant other, or to your children.
However, there are many more complicated situations that online wills do not provide for, including if you:
- have many assets;
- have property overseas;
- have complex finances;
- have a blended family;
- have beneficiaries with varying needs;
- have a self-managed super fund;
- have a company or family trust.
Before deciding to use an online will, you should ensure it is appropriate for your circumstances.
Using an online will service can often mean preparing your will in the absence of the comprehensive instructions and reviews that a wills lawyer would traditionally provide.
This can give rise to risks such as:
- the instructions in your will being unclear, ambiguous or different in meaning to what you intended;
- your will missing important information;
- your will not complying with current legislation;
- unwanted tax liabilities;
- a greater likelihood of claims against your estate; for example, because you have not adequately provided for particular family members or dependants;
- your will being incorrectly drafted, signed and/or witnessed.
This opens your will to misinterpretation and challenges, and – ultimately – may invalidate your will. If your will is found to be invalid, the Courts may deal with your estate as though you did not leave a will at all.
To alleviate these risks, you should have any online will reviewed by a lawyer. This is less costly than having a lawyer prepare a will from scratch, and gives you the assurance that you will leave behind a legally binding will.
6. Online Will Planning Kit
Once you’ve decided that an online will is the right option for you, you can use our Online Will Planning Kit to get started. Our online will checklist will guide you through the planning process, and ensure you’ve got everything you need to create a valid and enforceable will.
Enter your details below and start creating your online will now: