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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 platforms, will preparation is being taken down a new – much quicker, cheaper and more efficient – path.

A quick Google search reveals a plethora of will templates, checklists, and online platforms – many for a fraction of the cost of a will prepared by a law firm. But is using an online will service suitable for your circumstances? Is an online will valid and legally binding?

In this guide, we answer all your questions and cover everything you need to know about making an online will, including:

  1. Why should I write a will?
  2. What is an online will?
  3. Are online wills good?
  4. Online wills – the pros
  5. Online wills – the cons

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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 questionnaire where the user inputs answers to a variety of topics. 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?

Are online wills good? The answer is it depends. In our survey of over 10 online wills and templates, we found the quality and comprehensiveness of the wills vary quite significantly. We may be biased, but we believe our free online will is among the best available in the market.

4. Online wills – the pros

There are numerous 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:

  1. Risks of using an online will when your circumstances are more complicated than those that online wills are intended to provide for.
  2. Risk of using an online will in the absence of adequate legal (and other professional) advice.

Complex circumstances

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 uncomplicated assets and wish to cleanly divide those assets among your loved ones.

However, there are many more complicated situations that online wills do not provide for, including if you:

  • want to leave a close family member out of your Will
  • 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.

Legal issues

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;
  • 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.

6. Our Free Online Wills Platform

If you’ve decided that an online will is the right option for you, you can create our own will using our free Online Wills Platform. There’s absolutely no cost. If you’re unsure, you can try it out and read through the will that is generated for you. If you’re happy with how it operates – that’s great. If you’re unsure about anything, you can schedule a free consultation with one of our wills lawyers to discuss a bespoke will.

If you have any queries, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at wills@gatheredhere.com.au or start a live chat by clicking the floating message box in the bottom right corner of your screen.

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