Are online wills legally binding?

Online wills are a more affordable option, but are they legally binding?

Are online wills legally binding?

Online wills are often seen as a more affordable way of getting your affairs in order. But are they legally binding?

Q. Paul
I need to make a will but can’t afford to visit a solicitor to have one drawn up. I’ve seen will kits online, and even online wills. Are these just as effective as one a solicitor would draw up? Are they legally binding? Surely anything that states my wishes is good enough?

A. You’re right when you say it’s important to have a will, but it’s more important to have one that accurately conveys your wishes and takes into consideration the different legal aspects that may apply to your estate.

Firstly, it’s worth noting that creating a will is different to estate planning, which covers your affairs in totality. If your affairs are complex, a will kit or online will not be sufficient.

Will kits
Will kits can be bought just about anywhere, which doesn’t necessarily mean that they are the best solution. Also, given that they only costs about $30, this should give an indication of their worth. Will kits are more susceptible to challenges, don’t cover blended families or superannuation, and can only be used for the very basic of circumstances.

Wills must conform to strict legal requirements, and if not executed properly, are not worth the paper on which they’re written.

Online wills
Through a process of answering questions and completing details, you can create your will online. This will only be as effective as the information you provide, as the process does not include legal advice; neither will it deal with the tax implications of an inheritance. Once you have provided the information, you make a payment (around $80) and download your documents. Again, these must be properly executed or they are simply worthless.

State trustees
State trustees do not charge for creating a will, but you need to appoint them as the executor and there are fees involved once the estate is administered. Some state trustees also offer will kits and online wills.

Several legal firms, of which Slater & Gordon is one, have a tool that will enable you to assess if your affairs are simple enough to be covered by an online will, or whether you need a further consultation. Although more expensive than the online will quoted above ($199), it may offer a little more peace of mind than some others.

Sadly, the validity of a will is often unknown until a challenge is made. It’s worth shopping around for a solicitor with affordable fees for creating a watertight will.

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    COMMENTS

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    20th Dec 2016
    9:14pm
    No will is legally binding. The law allows BLACKMAIL by anyone partner, former partner, or former dependant (including adult child) who wants more than they've been left. Doesn't matter how immoral, greedy and disgusting their claim is. Doesn't matter if they abused the deceased, had nothing to do with them for years... etc. They just hire a no-win/no-pay lawyer (there are plenty of these ambulance chasers around) and then they threaten to go to court if you don't give them what they want. You either pay them out, or you spend up to $250,000 in legal costs to fight. The claimant is unlikely to ever lose. The rightful beneficiary can NEVER win, because the costs come out of the estate.

    It's a DISGUSTING law that is causing horrendous heartache and loss for good people and letting the most vile, selfish and immoral creeps benefit from estates in ways the testator never wanted, much less intended.

    Oh, and don't think a well drafted will helps. Even an affidavit confirming your wishes doesn't stop these vile monsters from holding the executor to ransom. All they need is an unconscionable money-hungry lawyer (and there are tons of those!) and they can make your life hell on earth and rob you blind, and it's all perfectly legal.
    Rosret
    5th Jan 2017
    10:15am
    So true Rainey. Stick to a fair distribution of the inheritance and it shouldn't cause any grief.
    The biggest hiccup these days is second marriages. Especially when Dad or Mum remarry in their dippy dotage and a very wise new partner claims the entire estate.
    There seriously needs to be some new protection laws put in place.

    You know the old joke, "Marry me, I am a wealthy heir and my widowed father is very poorly"
    The young girl is asked the same question a few days later, "Sorry, I married your father instead!" she replies with a cheeky smile.
    MICK
    5th Jan 2017
    11:45am
    I wanted to send you a private message on this one Rainey but I cannot for the life of me recall how to do this. Any ideas?
    Anonymous
    5th Jan 2017
    4:42pm
    Sorry Mick, no, but I'll see if the site managers can help.
    Anonymous
    5th Jan 2017
    4:44pm
    Problem, Rosret, is that ''fair'' is often anything but. It depends on your perspective.
    Anonymous
    5th Jan 2017
    5:06pm
    Here's an example. Two children have two different fathers. One leaves a modest estate that is all used up supporting the family when the younger child's drop-kick father refuses to support his family. Second father dies leaving large estate and second child inherits large amount. Mother then leaves her small estate to first child, who got nothing from any parent previously but forfeited her proper inheritance from her dad because of the conduct of the younger child's father. Younger child ends up with 3 times the amount the older child inherits, including 25% of mother's estate, but it's not enough for a greedy bludger who robbed and abused her mother and never worked a day in her life. Mother was fair, but not according to lawyers because second child is more ''needy'' (yep - because she's a bludging no-hoper - but mother apparently should have divided her estate equally. Now that would NOT have been fair!
    Old Geezer
    6th Jan 2017
    3:11pm
    Wills are only wishes. You need to get it into a trust they can't break instead.
    Cassius
    5th Jan 2017
    10:27am
    Stay away from State/Public Trustee, I am told they charge like wounded bulls and are impossible to deal with. Also wills can be challenged and you are obviously not around to defend your wishes. The solution is to give the bulk of your estate away to those you want to receive it before you go then there is nothing for anyone to fight over
    Anonymous
    5th Jan 2017
    1:34pm
    Casssius, what you have heard is wrong. Also, if you use the word "wish", or it's plural, in a will the will is wide open to challenge.
    casey
    5th Jan 2017
    3:28pm
    Cassius is correct the State Trustees over charge and cannot be trusted. The are a private organization not Goverment. They "misplaced" a large sum of my deceased aunts. It was only when I threatened legal action and proved through paperwork I had that, the money did exist. They then " apologised " for their "error" Ha Ha. My solicitor contacted them and they admited to overcharging and refunded a portion of the fees. Before anyone asks No I was not a benificiary and I asked for, and received nothing from her estate.
    Capn Dan
    5th Jan 2017
    10:31am
    "only costs about $30, this should give an indication of their worth" seems to be a value judgment and although it may be sound advice, some may find it does, in fact, meet their needs. Cheap may be cheerful, except to a lawyer. Usual caveats apply.
    RodCunichLawyer.com
    5th Jan 2017
    11:30am
    Wills can and often are challenged. So, all the more reason to begin with a properly prepared Will. At least you have a starting point from which to argue.
    Anonymous
    5th Jan 2017
    12:08pm
    How much?
    MICK
    5th Jan 2017
    1:12pm
    Let's talk about discretionary family trusts Rod. That is a solution but unfortunately requires sane adults who want to set something like this up whilst they are able to.
    Knight Templar
    5th Jan 2017
    11:33am
    Where there's a will there are relatives ...
    Anonymous
    5th Jan 2017
    6:13pm
    Where there's a will there are money-hungry thieving sleaze bags and filthy bottom-feeder lawyers ready to steal from rightful heirs.

    5th Jan 2017
    11:37am
    From the article:

    "I need to make a will but can’t afford to visit a solicitor..."

    "It’s worth shopping around for a solicitor with affordable fees..."

    Pathetic. And quite unhelpful.

    The fact that making a will involves giving money to the sleaziest profession is the reason so many people don't have them.
    Sheriff
    5th Jan 2017
    11:48am
    Rainey it looks like you have had a bad experience but some of your comments are not accurate and are based on some old legal principles. As a lawyer I take offence to the description you give of people like myself. Also a Will is challenged in Court and it's the court, not the lawyer who determines the outcome and no matter how rich you are you can't buy a court decision.
    Anonymous
    5th Jan 2017
    12:07pm
    But the lawyers still take money, don't they?
    MICK
    5th Jan 2017
    1:10pm
    Sorry if your raw nerve has been hit here Sheriff. Many people have been badly stung by the legal system and have little respect for it.
    The problem, as I see it, is with judges of all persuasion as their idea of justice is far removed from the pub test where a bit of common sense and fairness mostly prevails. Making a decision on some innocuous point of law is fine as long as the baby is not thrown out with the bathwater, which it often is. You see that time and again on the media.
    One only has to start digging and the facts defy logic. 13 years jail for the collar bomber who actually never hurt anybody? 4-6 year's jail for murderers? No jail for most who kill somebody with their car after years of suspended sentences for similar behaviour?
    What I have learned in my lifetime is that we have 2 legal systems: one for poor people and another for rich folk.
    Sorry for the dissent. You probably won't find a lot of folk here who have a great deal of respect for the legal system having been burned by it. The last straw for me was wanting to litigate in the Local Court only to find out that this was going to cost me $5,000 a day with potentially several days in the case. That is obscene. Ok, nothing to do with wills.
    Anonymous
    5th Jan 2017
    4:53pm
    Sheriff, claims against small estates rarely get to court. Settlements are enforced by threats of huge costs, and the applicant holds all the ace cards. Yes, I've had a bad experience - with an ambulance chaser who had no conscience at all. But I've listened to countless stories from others and my experience is typical, sadly.
    MICK
    5th Jan 2017
    11:51am
    Interesting posts. Clearly none of the posters are unfortunate enough to have a parent who has lost it and is going to leave their lifetime of work to somebody they met last week or a dog shelter nobody has ever heard of.
    The problem with wills is that (some) ageing parents lose cognitive function and become like 2 year olds......but still retain the right to make financial decisions which are both hurtful to those who (often) do so much for them and which completely defy any logic or reason.
    WE NEED AN OVERHAUL OF LAWS so that the predators who groom ageing parents are put out of business. Like much of the ill in society this will not happen until one of our highly paid politicians are bitten. They call that government!
    Sheriff
    5th Jan 2017
    12:49pm
    When my mother died I found 15 Wills in the house. On the assumption that my father would die first she had left in the various wills everything to the RSPCA, cemetery trusts, churches and people that I had never heard of. So I understand your comment. The thing that you learn as a lawyer doing wills is that relatives are often greedy, that "do gooders" often masquerading as church folk and in -laws are often the worst people involved in will problems.

    In my case it was simply solved by my mother going before my father and so he inherited.
    Sheriff
    5th Jan 2017
    2:23pm
    Mick I don't have a raw nerve just the wish that lawyers were not held responsible for all of society's ills. We don't make the laws, we don't enforce the laws all we do is what our client instructs us to do.
    Most court lawyers will tell you that they are sometimes dumbfounded by a court decision but it's a decision of the court not the lawyer. So don't blame the messenger.
    I strongly disagree with your opinion that there is a law for the rich and one for the poor. Look at the rich people who are or have been in prison. Their money didn't help.
    Lawyers are the most regulated profession in the country and if a lawyer does the wrong thing then they are out.
    MICK
    5th Jan 2017
    3:31pm
    One of my neighbours is a District Court judge. I have heard about what lawyers get up to and some of the crooks they get off. It's not as though lawyers have a conscience.
    Just to expand on the above you might like to read about an incident a number of years ago. We had a lawyer who lived down the street at our old house location where the community got together at Christmas time for a drink. I recall questioning the ethics of lawyers and my question to this gentleman was: how would you feel if through your skill you got a killer off when he was guilty and should have been put behind bars to protect society? The response was horrifying. The spiel about doing a good job and how the system worked left me cold and that was where I lost all respect for the legal system. Nothing about personal responsibility, anybody else or what was fair right.....and no social conscience!
    The lawyer involved pretty well avoided me after that and a couple of years later moved house.
    In case you are unaware Sheriff lawyers are for the most part in the same category as real estate agents and Used Car Salesmen. If you do not agree you might like to spend some time looking at the behaviour of one George Brandis. This is the stereotype many people view lawyers with. To be fair there are rats and then there are rats so perhaps my assessment is a bit unfair. I'll leave it to other posters to fill in the blanks.
    From your point of view don't worry mate as your job will be dead in 20 years anyway as this is one of the professions robotics will kill off. Watson!
    Cheers.
    Anonymous
    5th Jan 2017
    6:18pm
    ''Lawyers are the most regulated profession in the country and if a lawyer does the wrong thing then they are out.''

    Not quite true, Sheriff. Lawyers get away with all kinds of filthy tricks and dirty dealing, simply because clients don't have the knowledge to hold them to account and the Law Society looks after its own.

    I've forced two lawyers to resign from representing a client who they knew was lying by threatening to take them to task based on a precedent someone alerted me to. 95% of clients wouldn't have had a clue how to defend their rights against a thoroughly dishonest and unconscionable lawyer who should have been disbarred. Both lawyers walked away from the respective cases and their clients caved in and withdrew, but neither lawyer suffered penalty.
    Old Geezer
    6th Jan 2017
    10:32pm
    There is an ombudsman that can help you with lawyers that do the wrong thing. I had dealings with one a couple of years back when I had a lawyer refusing to surrender documents unless I paid them a substantial amount. As soon as they got involved the documents were sent express post without me paying a penny.
    Sheriff
    5th Jan 2017
    12:40pm
    Barak. I assume that you worked and that you got paid for that work so why do you expect other occupations that you don't seem to like such as lawyers and politicians not to be paid for the work they do? Is there some law that says if you have a job that someone doesn't like that you must do it for free. Run that argument past the next cop that pulls you over.
    Anonymous
    5th Jan 2017
    2:31pm
    In my profession it would have been impossible to charge the fees lawyers do, for services articles like this tell us are essential.

    Regulate and severely limit lawyers fees for essential services, and I might gain more respect.
    Rae
    5th Jan 2017
    4:18pm
    That is so not true Barak. Police, teachers and nurses are a good example. If they just refused to work for less than the going rate we would have to pay them more.

    A teacher for example should get a child minding component, teaching component, interview fees, letters, etc. Can you imagine how much it would cost if teachers charged like lawyers?

    Someone worked out the average teacher, in a completely neo liberal world would be on over $600 000 a year after costs of classroom rental and insurance costs.
    musicveg
    5th Jan 2017
    1:05pm
    Still having trouble deciding if a will is worth it because it can always be contested and this cost's money. My mum was left some money from her dear friend who didn't want her daughter(adopted) to have it because she had been nasty for years and never visited even in her dying days, even her grand-daughter only visited to ask for money and bled her of thousands before she died. They still got half of the money she did not want them to have which would have upset her if she had known. So what is the point of a will?
    Sheriff
    5th Jan 2017
    2:52pm
    Barak. Sorry but you are wrong again. Our fees for a lot of the essential work that we do are regulated by what Legal Aid or what our clients can afford. Add to that the fact that most lawyers do pro bono work where the client doesn't pay and the lawyer doesn't get paid. As well as volunteering at a community legal centre I do many hours per week free for veterans,legatees and grandparents fighting for access or care of their grand children.
    I studied full time for 5 years to become a lawyer then worked 60 to 80 hours per week to take home 50% of what I had earned working in emergency services.
    Lawyers aren't asking for your gratitude just get off our backs until you get your facts right. If we do anything wrong we get investigated by the Legal Services Board and even then we can get a bill for many thousands because we can be made to pay for the investigation.
    Anonymous
    5th Jan 2017
    3:01pm
    You very skillfully missed my core point.

    For a "normal" customer, you can charge what you like to prepare a will, a job that, for many people like me, will be pure routine.
    MICK
    5th Jan 2017
    3:36pm
    Sheriff: I studied full time at university as well. I never could charge $5,000 a day as lawyers do for a day in court. That is highway robbery.
    I don't know your circumstances but Barak is probably making an across the board comment. Unfortunately if the mud sticks then there is most likely a reason for this.
    Nobody is on your back but arrogant disregard for the law and rip-offs speak for themselves. My request: show me a lawyer who has any respect for the 'law'. Rare as hen's teeth mate!
    Anonymous
    5th Jan 2017
    4:49pm
    Sheriff, $500 for a half-hour phone conversation is a rip-off. $70,000 to defend a will for an estate worth only $300,000 is a rip-off. Sorry, but lawyer are grossly overpaid, and when they advertise ''no-win/no-pay - get the inheritance you are due'' and then proceed to blackmail executors to agree to hideously unfair re-distribution (often to someone who was left out of the will because they defrauded, bullied and abused the deceased) or lose the lot in legal costs, and they deliberately obstruct any attempt to settle informally, that's not just unconscionable - it's actually illegal under our written laws. But sadly the written law that lawyers must serve the aim of truth and justice is seldom enforced.
    PIXAPD
    5th Jan 2017
    5:07pm
    Public Trustee and Guardian is the way to go, no fee for the will.... download their book on what fees they charge...let them do the work.
    Sheriff
    5th Jan 2017
    6:04pm
    They will charge you a lot more than any lawyer.
    PIXAPD
    5th Jan 2017
    10:15pm
    Trustee and Guardian

    4.4% on the first $100,000

    3.85% on the second $100,000

    2.75% on the third $100,000

    1.65% any amounts over $300,000

    KEEP YOUR ESTATE AT $100,000 and it's $4,400, funeral charges on top would be about $5,000 for cheapest, say $12,000 all up, leaves $88,000 for the children.

    Make sure all accounts power phone are all in credit, rent is ahead (as it should be) and that way nothing much will have to be paid from your estate...ALL these things you have already worked out whilst alive...so if you drop off the perch suddenly all is arranged on that level.
    Anonymous
    6th Jan 2017
    1:21pm
    You omitted to note that they charge claimed disbursements on top of the commission, Pixapd, and that's where the costs mount up. I had a relative whose $1.2 million estate was managed by the Public Trustee and Guardian and the costs were horrendous. The beneficiary fought for 4 years to wrest the money out of the Trustee's hands. An associate is currently watching a $3 million estate evaporate completely as the Trustee and Public Guardian engages with complete disinterest in a legal battle that should have been won easily and at low cost.

    5th Jan 2017
    6:15pm
    I know.

    Bring back death duties. Tax deceased estates at a rate that leaves just enough to conduct a funeral.

    Leave nothing for the lawyers.
    Anonymous
    5th Jan 2017
    9:11pm
    OMG Barak, don't say things like that. If, by chance, a politician sees it, your thought could well be law by week's end.
    Anonymous
    9th Jan 2017
    4:37pm
    Better than letting lawyers get rich tearing families apart, Old Man. I have a friend who says there should be 100% death duties to pay for social services. Not a bad idea actually!

    5th Jan 2017
    9:09pm
    I've read the posts and I'm sorry that some of you have had bad experiences with solicitors and barristers. We have wills drawn up by a solicitor who looked at what we had, what our family situation is and gave some very helpful advice. Regardless of what happens in the future, our wills should still cover any eventuality. I'm not suggesting that what we did is what is good for each and every other person but I know it gives us peace of mind.

    As regards the cost of drawing up wills, I can't recall the cost but I know it wasn't an amount that made us look at each other with raised eyebrows. As I see it, if you don't have enough to pay a solicitor then chances are there won't be a lot to squabble over and if you have a lot of assets then the cost is affordable and probably worthwhile. It would be nice to know how many wills are challenged and the percentage that wins the challenge to put this article into some sort of perspective.
    Anonymous
    6th Jan 2017
    1:23pm
    Old Man, the problem is that under current law in most states, if some spiteful, dishonest, greedy eligible person challenges the will, what your solicitor did will count for very little. Your wishes will be overridden, or your executor will be BLACKMAILED into handing out to someone who is totally undeserving to avoid horrendous legal costs. That's just how it is currently. It's disgusting! And anybody who understands the realities of the system would agree the law should have been changed a long time ago - but greedy lawyers are responsible for it remaining as is. It benefits them.
    Old Geezer
    9th Jan 2017
    2:59pm
    If you leave someone out of you will that should have been included then they can say they have been overlooked. If you leave them something then they have a much harder job getting any more.
    Anonymous
    9th Jan 2017
    4:26pm
    Wrong OG. They can say it wasn't enough just as easily as they can say they were left out.
    vincent
    6th Jan 2017
    6:20pm
    Like the posts but most of them miss the point as usual. When I read the article I presumed that YLC ad a new sponsor the legal profession. Any will can be challenged no matter how it is written. So cut out the legal profession with their exorbitant charges and certainly leave the Slater & Gordons out of the picture. As far as the law in the old pommy system is concerned, something we inherited. This has nothing to do with justice at all. It never has been. It might have some tax implications but disperse it while you are still alive. Buck's chance that the dropkicks can get their hands in it.
    JAID
    9th Jan 2017
    2:31am
    I cannot see that where it goes should be any business of anybody but the person leaving the money. If they leave it to some stupid shelter for cats or the starving of Timbuktu how reasonably should any family, acquaintance or for that matter Government think they have any claim on it?

    That is the view, there is a reality quite different and that will not change until wills are made almost incontestable. Why should that be? Because we do not own the wealth of another, it is not we who have worked for it whether parent or otherwise. I say that as one who worked hard from early childhood and who must have been integral to some of my parent's income-making but recognising it was a contribution to family survival and well-being and that even at that time the option was always available to refuse.

    Some rail here for good reason, Rainey rails for good reason, we have let greed and the capacity to win what we are in no way entitled to become an easy, even respectable pathway to gain in this society.
    Anonymous
    9th Jan 2017
    4:36pm
    Agreed Jaid. Also, this notion of ''need'' is rubbish. Why should an adult child who bludged and wasted their life away get more than an adult child who worked hard and was responsible, just because the bludger has less? Why shouldn't I be allowed to reward my diligent, faithful children? Why shouldn't I be allowed to repay a ''debt'' (in my mind only) to an adult child who invested in caring for me in old age if so choose?

    And what is the garbage about the deceased should have provided for the ''maintenance and advancement in life'' of an adult child? Why am I responsible for the ''advancement in life'' of a son or daughter I raised and educated and who has been self-supporting for 3 decades and has kids of their own? Why is a pensioner who can barely get by themselves responsible for the ''maintenance and advancement in life'' of an adult child who has more than the deceased?

    It's a ludicrous system, but the worst part is that small estates are being eroded by huge legal fees and executors have no effective defence against a bogus claim because it costs too much to defend it. It's usually cheaper just to pay the blackmailer out.
    professori_au
    9th Jan 2017
    11:39am
    One thing I would be concerned over on line wills is if it is only a record of your wishes. If it does not have a wet signature then it might be subject to challenge. If you download the will you produced via the on line method, then had it witnessed and signed I believe it would be ok. I had a recent incidence relating to an issue of someone who came to me for help. It involved a breach of privacy and confidentiality. Information had been passed on to a third party by a council. Council was unable to produce any signed authority that allowed it to pass on or sell this information. Logically it could not as the client had claimed no such agreement had been signed. Council will face further litigation as the client has suffered "injury" as a result of council's action. It is a bit different from the making of a will but you need to take care to ensure you wishes cannot be under dispute. I hope these thoughts are of some assistance. Oh and just a suggestion, have it witnessed by a JP or take it to a courthouse. These are supposed to have legal standing and would give better protection