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Whether you're young or old, married or single, child-free or proud parents – a will ensures your financial wishes are met when it's your time to go. While it may be a subject many would rather avoid, writing a will doesn't have to be a morbid process, nor does it have to be a lengthy affair.
Online will kits and other free will options offer a convenient and affordable alternative to full-service options. Here's where to get one.
How does a will kit work?
A will kit is a do-it-yourself, low-cost option to prepare your will. Both paper-based and online will kits are available for you to compare below.
A will kit can be used when you first prepare your will and when your circumstances change. A change in circumstances could be a new marriage, de-facto relationship, separation, divorce, having a baby or the death of a beneficiary. Generally, it is suggested to review your will every two to three years. Or, any time when you go through a significant life event.
Online will kits compared
Gathered Here aims to be a one-stop shop for anything to do with end-of-life, from wills and probate to funerals and headstones. Gathered Here offers an online will platform that's designed to be both easy to use and legally valid for those after a fuss-free will.
Pros and cons
- Free to write and update - Some services charge if you need to make changes
- Fast to complete - Can be done in less than 10 minutes
- Donate a portion of your estate or a gift to a cause that you care about
- Appoint guardians for your children and pets
- Can detail funeral wishes including type of funeral and where your final resting place should be
- Call or use online chat if you have questions while making your will
- Automatically notify your partner and executors they've been named in the will
- Annual check-in by email to remind you if you need to update your will
- No guidance about what forms part of your estate
- Can divide your estate in percentages only, not dollar amounts
- Doesn't mention taxation or superannuation
- Deals with gifts in a confusing way
LawDepot is an online resource that lets you do your own legal work by offering legal documents, forms and contracts to individuals and businesses. Its online will kits can be accessed with a free trial subscription for new users.
Pros and cons
- Handles guardianship for children and a delayed inheritance for minor beneficiaries
- Some helpful information available along with FAQ popups
- Includes gift giving for individuals or charities
- Pet fund amount and choice of caretaker
- Room for additional clauses such as forgiving a debt owed
- No description of what makes up your estate
- Doesn't mention taxation or superannuation
- Some fields lack detail and could lead to ambiguity (e.g. possible to only enter first names instead of full names)
- No option to include funeral wishes
- Doesn't advise or provide an opportunity to get legal advice if unsure
- Free to create but will require a subscription to make any changes in the future
Lawpath is an Australian online legal service that helps small businesses and individuals connect with legal templates and top-class lawyers without blowing the budget. You can subscribe to an online portal to access hundreds of legal document templates but you can also view samples and create your first document for free, including its online will kits.
Pros and cons
- Tips and common answers included as a guide
- Can include basic preferences for funeral arrangements
- Authorise your trustee to be granted access to digital assets
- Appoint someone to hold your property on trust for minor children
- Delay inheritance for minor beneficiaries
- Estate can only be divided into percentage shares
- Gifts of cash are accounted for but not of specific items
- Free to create but not able to make changes or update without making a new will or completing a codicil amendment
While not completed online, Australian Seniors lets you download a free will kit to fill out on your own. The DIY option includes information you need to prepare your own will and easy-to-understand instructions.
Pros and cons
- Explanation of important terms including an FAQ section
- Step-by-step instructions to guide you through each section
- Information on proper storage of your will - This is lacking in other online will kits
- Deals with a trust for minors, guardianship and delayed inheritance
- Section for funeral directions and body organ donation
- Not suitable if you have more than one beneficiary
- Provision only to allocate 100% of your estate to one party
- No option to include an option for your grandchildren to inherit the share of a deceased parent
- Taxation and superannuation only covered briefly
- Limited room to detail gifts
- No option to list backup beneficiaries or guardians
- No option to handle pets
What should I look out for in a will kit?
A will kit should contain enough information to help you complete your will without assistance and be easy to understand.
Some of the key topics that should be covered include:
- Executor. The person named to carry out the terms of the will.
- Beneficiaries. The person or group that will receive assets from the deceased.
- Bequests. Gifts of personal property to a beneficiary.
- Guardianship of minor children. The ability to make arrangements for children under 18 or dependents.
- Probate. The process in which your executor has to prove and register your will.
How effective is a will kit?
The precise wording of a will is a specialised task best left to the professionals. The best free will kits provide you with enough instructions to make sure you conform to the strict legal requirements needed and, remove the possibility of ambiguity that's sometimes found in home-made wills.
Keep in mind that a will kit is only effective when completed properly and in full. So, be mindful to fill out all necessary sections and questions and thoroughly check the document to make sure you haven't overlooked anything.
Online will kits vs a lawyer
Anyone can prepare their own will if they are over 18 years old or married and deemed to be of sound mind. That said, there are some occasions when you might want to leave the legal work to the professionals.
Unsurprisingly, this will come at a cost but it could be worth it to secure your assets.
|You are clear about how your estate should be handled||You need some guidance on how to allocate your estate|
|You have a ‘traditional’ family structure||You have a blended or separated family with many members that need to be accounted for|
|Your estate would be made up of straightforward assets such as a home, a car and savings in a bank account||You have complex financial arrangements including jointly held assets, a family trust or a self-managed super fund|
|You can nominate a guardian for your minor children||You can nominate the age that your children can inherit from your estate and specify how funds can be used by a trustee while your beneficiaries are minors|
Do I need a lawyer for a will?
Whether you draft it yourself from scratch or use a will kit, you don't need a lawyer for your will to be valid. You can, however, get it checked by the Public Trustee or a solicitor to make sure you've included everything you need.
Again, for complex financial and family situations the use of a lawyer is recommended. Getting the right legal advice upfront could save your loved ones in the future and make sure your will is valid and your wishes are carried out correctly.
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How do I write a will?
While the rules for a will vary across the states, there are some common requirements for a valid will. These are:
1. Your personal details
You must be at least 18 years of age or married for your will to be considered a legal document. Make sure your full name, current address and identification details are all written correctly.
2. Mental state
Clearly state that you are of sound mind, memory and understanding and that you are revoking any other wills that you may have completed before.
3. Executor and beneficiaries
You'll need to appoint an executor and at least one beneficiary. Keep in mind that the role of executor can be time-consuming and onerous so make sure to choose someone responsible who is up for the task. You can also appoint a substitute executor just in case.
4. Signing and witnesses
Your will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses, neither of which can be a beneficiary or your spouse. Both witnesses must then sign the will in the presence of you and each other.
5. Keep it safe
File your will carefully in a secure place and tell those involved where they can find it. It is also a good idea to keep a list of the legal documents you have and where they can be found. You don't need to lodge or register your will with anyone for it to be valid.