Post Will 3

Wills, estates and powers of attorney

At our local Melbourne office of Rigoli Lawyers we are preparing wills and powers of attorneys all the time but it never ceases to amaze me how many people are doing their “own home job” wills and powers of attorney.

While I can understand they want to save money, what is overlooked is the costs of not getting legal advice on the estate plan and what are the actual powers given in the document and what can go wrong.

Some examples where people can be caught out:

  • Many people do not understand that a Will cannot control jointly owned property eg money held in a joint bank account
  • Another matter often not understood- is  that attorneys cannot always direct trustees of superannuation funds, especially industry funds, in relation to binding death benefit nominations and what happens with the death benefit.

On the other hand we have good clients who do in fact appreciate that there is a lot of understanding of law that goes in to completing legal documents no matter how short the document is.  Such documents require sufficient time and proper attention to complete which means the work is priced accordingly.

The document should stand up in a Court of law as often it will be tested this way where there are disputes.  Even if there is no dispute, trying to prove a will through the Supreme Court Probate Office in order to get a grant of probate, takes understanding of will drafting and the legal requirements.

You have to ask yourself- would you do your own dental work?

It’s a silly question but why would legal services be any different?

In 2009 the Queensland Law Society published a guide on costs. One comment in the guide was made that:

“… the majority of clients do not understand either the complexities or economics of legal work, so it is understandably difficult for them to recognise the value in your service…”

It is unfortunate but follows that a lot of people get into a pickle with home job kit type legal documents that just dont stand up when it is time for them to be tested.  We have had recent cases of hand written home job wills being disputed in the Supreme Court. These can take years to resolve and cost a fortune in court costs which can be ordered to come out of either the actual deceased estate or a beneficiarie’s share.  Better safe than sorry.