Could an online will work for you?

We all know we must make a will, but so many of us put it off – sometimes because we don’t want to think about dying, sometimes because we’re unsure how to go about it and sometimes because we believe the process could be costly. In today’s Q&A, Aaron Zelman, co-founder of willed.com.au, tells why and how to create a will simply and inexpensively.

•••

Do you have a will, Aaron?
I do. I’m very well organised. But that’s a big challenge for a lot of people.

So, why do almost half of Australians not have a will?
There is definitely a psychological barrier for most people – whether it’s just a nagging ‘to-do’ item or it’s a bit overwhelming. The usual ‘solution’, to go see a lawyer, puts some people off even more because it’s a very formal process; they may not have a lawyer, and lawyers are notoriously expensive.

So, it seems to get pushed off and pushed off. And even for people who have a will, they may really need to update it, for example they’ve divorced or started a family. Until recently, there hasn’t been a solution to enable a quick and cost-effective process, which is what we now have.

What happens if we don’t have a will and we pass away?
The simple answer is it creates a big mess; it can create a family feud. The law does cater for scenarios with people who do not have wills and the courts can divide your assets across your loved ones. However, it takes a particular formula and simply applies it. Therefore, there’s no way to favour a particular child or whatever may be the case, or even just splitting things equally may not be appropriate, but the court can simply impose that on your estate. Probably the biggest catch will be if you’re actually in the process of getting divorced and that’s not been formalised; the court can actually assign your assets to your ex, which is a nightmare for many people.

Have you seen any change during the pandemic in terms of uptake of online will solutions?
We are seeing it for sure, with people more ready to buy things online. That’s why the Amazon share price is going through the roof, as well as their sales. People are using online like they never have before. And I think that flows ahead to various technologies, ‘Well, now’s the time to do it’. We know of people who had never heard of Zoom just weeks ago and now they’re constantly ‘Zooming’, ‘Facetiming’ and ‘WhatsApping’. People are adopting these technologies for great benefit.

How did you come to co-found willed.com.au?
My background is in financial advice, specifically life insurance. For years, I had been encouraging people to get their will sorted, and I’d actually found helping them get life insurance was easier for many people than getting a will done. I’d send people off to see lawyers and there would be a bit of back and forth, and probably most of the time nothing ever happened. My co-founders had been working on this project – one is a lawyer, one an entrepreneur and one a tech specialist. They’d been building a platform to make it very simple for people to get their will done.

What happens when I get onto your website?
You’ll be able to start putting in your details very quickly. You’ll be asked a few key questions and we’ve developed a user interface or client experience that’s really quite simple to use. We have one question at a time and, before you know it, you’ll be able to key in your own personal details, the family members who need to be considered. You’ll be asked about who you want to be the executor of your will, which is the person who makes sure everything gets done on your passing. If you have children who need guardians, you’ll be able to appoint those people, and then you get into the fun stuff, allocating gifts and the residual estate (it could be Collingwood Football Club memorabilia). It’s quite easy to nominate and give to a person, or a charity (which a lot of people are doing as well). You can leave gifts and your digital estate in either a dollar amount or in proportions. That’s really the process.

Can someone’s affairs be too complex to process online? Maybe they’ve been married before, have a blended family, own more than one property. Do they need to see a lawyer?
There will be cases that are too complex and legal advice needs to be obtained. I should mention that this is a platform that allows you to obtain a legal document in a legally binding manner, but it’s not itself legal advice. We would encourage people to get their own legal advice as they see fit. Some examples of more complicated scenarios could well be where there are blended families or where a person might have special needs and special arrangements need to be made. People may have assets overseas that can’t be directed by a local will. Some of those people will be filtered out of the system by the questions that are posed initially.

What is a legally binding document?
In the context of a will, a legally binding document would be a will produced by our platform that has been signed and witnessed correctly, in other words, executed correctly. That would create a legally binding will because the requirements within a will are met in our process – that is to have an executor and to have beneficiaries. Those requirements are automatically picked up and can’t be missed if you follow the process. If you take, for example, a will kit that you can buy at a newsagency or post office, it’s prone to things being left out and therefore it is not rendered a legally binding will.

How often should people review their will?
The standard suggestion is about every three years, but it depends on how much things are changing in your life.

If your family situation hasn’t changed that much, there is not a desperate need to do so. However, what people often don’t think about is who they have assigned as the executor. Is that person still competent? Is that person still alive? Is that person still the person you would like to handle your estate? If that’s changed, then you really need to consider a change and essentially rewrite your will. We allow for updates and revisions.

As a general rule of thumb, what would be the cost difference between going to willed.com.au and a lawyer?
The standard price for a will with us is $159. The standard pricing for a lawyer-made will varies between about $600 and even up to $6000.

YourLifeChoices, in conjunction with willed.com.au, is hosting an informative webinar, Wills made simple, at 1pm on 20 October. Learn the essentials and have your questions answered. Register today for free at yourlifechoices.com.au/about/webinar.

Willed.com.au is a commercial partner of YourLifeChoices. For the full interview with Aaron Zelman, listen to our podcast here.

Aaron Zelman, co-founder of willed.com.au, had a career in finance before deciding there was a need for a simpler, easier way to set up a will.

Do you have an up-to-date will? Is your choice of executor still appropriate?

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Disclaimer: All content on YourLifeChoices website is of a general nature and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It has been prepared with due care but no guarantees are provided for the ongoing accuracy or relevance. Before making a decision based on this information, you should consider its appropriateness in regard to your own circumstances. You should seek professional advice from a financial planner, lawyer or tax agent in relation to any aspects that affect your financial and legal circumstances.

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