The Queensland Law Society (QLS) has issued a warning against do-it-yourself will kits.
The warning comes in the wake of a recent case where a deceased RAAF mechanic’s new girlfriend walked away with the bulk of his superannuation, despite the fact he had a will that named another woman as sole executor and beneficiary of his estate.
“A large percentage of Australians believe that filling out a will kit from their local news agency, or downloaded from the internet, will cover them when they pass away,” QLS president Christine Smyth said on Monday.
“Decades ago that might have been true. But in a modern complex technological world, it is not.
“Gone are the days where we simply had a house, a car and a few dollars in the bank. Once upon a time a will might have dealt with those assets, but that is no longer the case.
“Anyone who relies on a downloaded will to give effect to the distribution of their assets on their death is taking dangerous risks for themselves, their family and loved ones.”
Ms Smythe said most people now have far more complex ways of saving for their future.
“Unlike 40 years ago, we all now have superannuation. Our banks are no longer that large sandstone building in the middle of town – banks accounts are online. A growing number of us also have insurance as a safety net for our families. And many of us have shares – Australian and international. The list goes on.
“Many mistakenly believe that all their assets are covered under a simple will that, once signed, means their wishes will be carried out following their death.
“In reality, many of these modern day assets are not covered by a will, and those that are remain exposed to claims. They can be exposed because the laws change according to where you live and where your asset is kept.”
What makes the situation even more complex is that most people are living longer and that is resulting in more and more people losing capacity.
“Many people overlook the impact a Power of Attorney can have on assets in a will,” Ms Smyth said.
“Also unlike 40 years ago, many people are now living in retirement villages or nursing homes. Retirements plans and nursing home care impacts on your estate, too.
“These are just a few of the matters that are not covered by filling out that will kit. Seeking legal advice from your trusted, local solicitor is key to ensuring your wishes are carried out when you lose capacity and pass away.
“Solicitors are independent legal advisors with no stake in who gets what from you. They are properly qualified, licensed and fully insured. Most importantly they are duty bound to act in the best interests of you – their client.
“Significantly, lawyers are charged with protecting your confidentiality even after you die – no other advisor has this duty.”
Ms Smyth said the QLS was issuing the warning as part of Seniors’ Week, which runs from August 19-26.
“I strongly urge all adult Queenslanders to ensure you have your wishes recorded with the advice of a qualified solicitor to protect the future of your care, the future of your assets, and to give you peace of mind,” she said.
“Importantly, take the time to check in with your elderly neighbours and family members to make sure they are okay and have the conversation about getting their affairs in order to ensure their wishes are protected for the future.”