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.

Written by Debbie McTaggart

RELATED LINKS

Navigating the execution of a will

Rod Cunich guides you through the execution of a will.

Estate planning – do your debts die with you?

What happens to debts when you die? Is your family responsible for paying them off?

Wills: time to leave your legacy

Writing a will never features highly on to-do lists but this could be a mistake.



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