How much will it cost to update your will?

Marcia wants to know how much it will cost to update her will.

How much to update a will?

Marcia wants to update her will and has asked estate planning expert Rod Cunich how much it will cost to make a few minor amendments.

Q. Marcia
I want to know if updating my will from over 25 years ago is a costly exercise. I just want to make a few amendments.

A. The cost of making a will varies greatly, as can the cost of updating a will. Generally, the cost increases with the complexity of your financial and family affairs. Some Public Trustees will not charge to prepare or update your will, but only if they act as the executor of your will. Other Public Trustees may only exempt you from charges if you are a pensioner or aged over 60. Check with the Public Trustee in your state or territory. 

As a general rule, if your affairs are simple, an inexpensive will (under $200) can often be sufficient. If you have a mix of companies, trusts, self-managed superannuation fund and/or a business structure and/or you have a blended family, disabled child or other family complications, your needs are likely to require a much more expensive solution, not just a simple will.

The costs can run into thousands of dollars. The only way to be certain about what it is likely to cost you, is to take advantage of offers by lawyers who invite people to a free no-obligation first consultation. By the end of that consultation, you should know the cost you are facing without having incurred any fees.

Disclaimer: This information has been provided by Rod Cunich and should be considered general in nature. Seek legal advice before acting on this information.

Rod Cunich is a lawyer with over 30 years of experience who specialises in estate planning. If you have a question for Rod, simply email it to newsletters@yourlifechoices.com.au

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    COMMENTS

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    arbee
    2nd Mar 2018
    11:23am
    Be very careful of public trustees. I know of people who have had very bad experiences with them and estates have taken years longer than normal to settle. The longer they take the more they make out of it.
    Circum
    3rd Mar 2018
    7:51pm
    I totally agree Arbee that you should be careful in involving the public trustee.My experience has been that they are primarily fund managers with their priority being to maximise income commission.The clients wishes are secondary.A bit off the topic but an example of what the public trustee (in south Australia at least) sees as reasonable is to invest the assets of an 85 year old dementia client into their growth fund.When I queried this with the ombudsman ,the reply was "they can do what they want".

    2nd Mar 2018
    11:34am
    Does anybody know how to make a Will 'watertight'. I have come across countless situations where an errant child has challenged the provisions of the deceased, and won the argument. It seems that there is no safe way to exclude a child - even where contact between parent and child has been non existent for 40 - 50 years. Does this vary from state to state? My experiences are mainly eastern seaboard.
    Old Geezer
    2nd Mar 2018
    12:06pm
    If you leave them nothing they will be deemed to have been forgotten and could get more than you wish to leave them. Unfortunately wills can be challenged and the executor if dishonest can do what ever they wish.
    KSS
    2nd Mar 2018
    12:47pm
    No will is 100% watertight. Anyone can contest the will. Leaving a child/grandchild nothing or even a token amount compared to brothers and sisters can easily be challenged. Likewise a divorce/separated/estranged partner could also challenge. Ultimately in these and similar contests it will be the court that decides the outcome not the will itself.
    Anonymous
    2nd Mar 2018
    4:32pm
    The law regarding wills is a absolute disgrace. Any child, spouse, ex-partner, defacto, or even someone who just lived with you for a time decades ago, can challenge the will and demand it be overturned. If they do, the legal costs that come out of the estate are horrendous and the executor might as well roll over and tell the other beneficiaries to kiss their inheritance goodbye. The courts virtually put a loaded gun in the hands of the challenger and tell them to ''extort for all you are worth''. Ultimately, it usually comes down to who can claim the greatest need - so if you want to favour a child who worked hard and saved well and cared for you in your old age over a drop-kick alcoholic or gambler who abused or ignored you, forget it! The courts will favour the drop-kick - if it even gets that far. Mostly, a farcical ''settlement conference'' is held, at massive expense, at which lawyers and barristers engage in what amounts to ''horse-trading'', based on nothing other than a comparison of the wealth of the named beneficiaries and the greedy claimant.

    The worst of it is that the system breaks family relationships permanently and imposes unbelievable stress and time demands on the executor. The other beneficiaries can hire a lawyer and join in the defence, sending the legal costs soaring, or just hope the executor fights for their rights. If the executor is not a beneficiary he/she may choose to roll over to avoid the time and stress imposition.

    Since the claimant can hire a lawyer no-win/no-pay, they don't care about legal costs and will often strive to drive them up by asking stupid questions and refusing to answer questions or disclose important information. Conversely, the executor has to pay all legal costs out of the estate. In NSW, witness statements are dismissed unless the witness can fly to Sydney to testify - imposing huge cost. Evidence, ultimately, is next to worthless.

    I have heard that the best approach to try to ensure your wishes are upheld is to make a very clear and detailed statement, explaining your wishes in full. Some do this in a video. Don't do it in your Will as it becomes public. Do it in an Affidavit. But don't leave any room for the tiniest doubt or question. Even then, the court may just declare you were being nasty or unfair and overrule your wishes completely. And regardless, if the estate is small, the costs of a legal challenge will eat most of it up and those you wish to benefit will lose.
    Charlie
    2nd Mar 2018
    12:43pm
    I have a simple will with a solicitor and they charged me $160 last time I changed it.

    That's way too much when I think of other things I could have done with the money, but apparently only about average.
    KB
    2nd Mar 2018
    12:58pm
    For those included in the will each person is charged a fee.Even after death a family member will contest your will as so often happens Unfortunately arbee no such thin as a watertight will

    2nd Mar 2018
    3:11pm
    Lawyers are the worst rip-off merchants. I had one make up my relatively simple will and it cost me $750.00 - only after I talked his price down from $825.00. Even then, he was pretty snarky about it.
    Anonymous
    2nd Mar 2018
    4:14pm
    I'm backing the lawyer, Knows-a-lot!
    Anonymous
    2nd Mar 2018
    4:34pm
    Lawyers are unconscionable thieves. I just talked a lawyer down from $37500 to $27500, and he did NOTHING but make mistakes that I had to correct. His advice was patently wrong. He was totally negligent. And in the end I achieved the result he told me was unachievable.
    Anonymous
    2nd Mar 2018
    4:43pm
    Yes but then you are so much smarter than all the rest of us OGR!
    Anonymous
    3rd Mar 2018
    6:00pm
    No, Big Al, just more invested in the outcome. Lawyers too often only care about their fee. I heard one tell a client ''I would have got that result eventually, but both sides' lawyers have to get their fee first.''
    Witzend
    2nd Mar 2018
    5:10pm
    I have done my own and my husbands wills and have had them notarized by 2 people who do not stand to inherit from our wills, according to 'google' this is all fine and legal and all it cost me was the time it took to type it out. There was a site online where I could outline my will and it was written up as per my wishes but I would have had to pay to have it emailed to me - I merely copied each page and wrote it up myself.
    Witzend
    2nd Mar 2018
    5:16pm
    my mother past away in Jan 2014 and left each of her great grandchildren $20,000, all were underaged. She had her will lodged with the Public Trustee, one great grandchild turned 18 3 years and 6 months after her death and only received $19,200 once the PT took out their fees for 'administering' hr account for that period, I shudder to think what the others will be left with. Surely anything invested for that period of time should have earned interest, evidently not - let that be a warning.
    Anonymous
    2nd Mar 2018
    7:59pm
    Surely Witzend the executor is entitled to an administration fee - my understanding is that it is generally in the range of 3 - 5%. Five percent of $20000 is $1000. With interest rates around 3% over the last few years, over 3 years, the best you could have hoped for would be $550 - $600 in interest, (per annum) so I don't think your grand child has come out of this as badly as you feared.
    Eddy
    3rd Mar 2018
    9:59am
    The will I made before I went to Vietnam is still my only will in existence. It was prepared by military legal officers and leaves everything to my wife or my children in equal shares in case she predeceased me. Too simple and still my wishes even though it is over 50 years old. I see no need to change it, except possibly to delete the provisions relating to guardianship of my infant children who are now into middle age.
    Johnny
    5th Mar 2018
    11:03am
    I am single My 5 siblings get equl parts. This is a given regrdless of any realtionship issues. I just feel it to be the ehical thing to do. My nieces and nephews also receive portions but a few years ago I altered the will so that nieces and nephews receive nothinh until they turn 40. I'd like to think by then they will be more settled in life e.g mortgage repayments, children. My solicitor remarked a lot of people are stipulating this older age requirement. i didn't want my money spent on travel. flashy cars ,etc which the younger folk do these days.