DIY will kits

Pamela would like to know how to activate probate when in possession of a DIY will and if such kits are actually a good idea.

Q. Pamela

If named as an executor to a DIY will kit, how does one go about activating probate, etc. and are these kits such a good idea?

A. To activate probate, you will need to apply through the court system of the state in which you reside. This is to ascertain the validity of the will. The process for this varies between states and I would suggest you contact the relevant law society to ascertain how it works in your area. A simple Google search should give you access to its website.

As for the usefulness of DIY will kits, I have asked Rod Cunich, our legal expert, to give his opinion:

DIY will kits are basic and generic by nature. You fill in the blanks. If the document is appropriate to address your financial and family circumstances, and you fill in the blanks correctly, the will will function and an executor can use the will to obtain probate in the normal way. But exercise extreme caution. Unfortunately most people simply do not have the legal knowledge to assess whether the limited scope of a DIY will kit will adequately address their financial situation and their individual family circumstances.

A will is one of the most important legal documents you will ever sign and getting it wrong can have catastrophic consequences. In the absence of an assessment of your estate planning requirements and the suitability of a DIY will, completing a will kit is, in my view, dangerous.

Take advantage of Slater & Gordon’s free online Estate Planning Self Assessment and at least give yourself a fighting chance of getting it right.