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The Curse of a Post Office Will Kit

Voodoo, Gypsy Curses, Newsagency Will Kits, and other bad ideas

For as long as we’ve told stories, we’ve told stories about curses. Often, they’re punishments, occasionally they’re strictly allegorical, sometimes they are hopeful, and sometimes they’re just plain bad luck.

Mummy curses are relatively familiar to most people, followed by those more personalised ones pronounced by a Hattian Voodoo Priest. For the theatre lovers, the Shakespearean Macbeth comes to mind — so the story goes, a coven of witches objected to Shakespeare using real incantations, so they put a curse on the play — and who dare forget the curse of Tutankhamen's Tomb and of course, Indiana Jones and the Ark of the Covenant.

Read in this article

The Modern Day Curse of The Quick Fix

There are some tasks so important in life that they require more knowledge than a quick online search late at night after the kids have gone to sleep. But for some time poor people, the allure of a quick fix today over a carefully understood solution for tomorrow, can create a problem later that will plague those we love who are left to deal with its effects.

The curse of the quick fix usually leads to the same end result - a problem that usually involves a very costly fix.

Author Alexander Chee in his novel, The Queen of the Night, tells us, ‘Our true misfortune is “not that we cannot choose our fate, but that we can.”

It seems when it comes to human nature, our misfortunes are much easier to bear when we can blame them on the gods, evil spirits, or someone else. Our guilt is much easier to stomach when we view events as forever operating outside of our power to control.

Three certainties in life: Death Taxes and Probate

A range of do-it-yourself Will booklets have sprung up in recent years in Australia, giving people seemingly cost-effective options to DIY their own Wills.

These cheap documents prey on unsuspecting people and their insecurities promoting the questionable logic of, ‘something is better than nothing’.  For an impulse guilt purchase of $20, who wouldn’t want a quick fix to calm a lazy conscience? But what happens then?

Creating any document with legal ramifications is complicated, and the same goes for your Will, regardless of the size of your estate. But human nature kicks in and most of these documents then stay in the kitchen draw - hopefully where the Wills Executors will later find them in the years to come, perfectly preserved, crystal clear, and completely legal and unchallengeable. (yes — sarcasm.)

The ‘Curse’ of the Homemade Will

On numerous occasions when dealing with so-called homemade Wills, I have seen they are a curse. Homemade Wills which utilise what is sometimes known as an over-the-counter ‘Will Kit’ (or a downloadable form from somewhere) are not much better.

This case study proves the point.

Estate Planning & Wills | Terrance's Story

case study estate planning newsagency will kit TerranceThe facts – Terrance has used a $20 DIY Will, hoping that would ‘be enough’. After he passed away, his family had to settle his affairs, and probate was required.

The problem – The law requires a legal Will to be witnessed by two competent witnesses. In this case, Terrance had signed the DIY documents where one of two independent witnesses was required to sign, leaving space for only one witness. The single witness did so in the remaining space. The witness was also elderly at the time of witnessing the Will. This was an easy oversight because the signing provisions of the DIY kit were close together (perhaps to reduce the use of paper?).

The result – As a result of the Will being executed and witnessed incorrectly, the family’s Executor had to apply to the court for special consideration - and the costs of applying for the administration of the estate skyrocketed. Problems began when siblings of the deceased were not on speaking terms, family arguments meant others were reluctant to consent to the appointment of the Executor, and others were temporarily unavailable, another uncontactable because they had moved away and changed surnames.

The cost – The cost of the application to the court was at least 4 times what a normal application would have cost, and took 6 months rather than the general 6 weeks it would take if the Will had been properly executed.

Pro Tip: While you may think you're saving money initially by purchasing a DIY Will, you must take into account that the cost of administering (and challenging) your estate, comes from your estate. The cost of the above matter meant that there was less to distribute to the intended beneficiaries. The issues that arose from the simply incorrect witnessing were easily avoidable, and the family traumas and unnecessary arguments would have been avoided too.

Estate Planning & Wills | Kathy Story

kathy estate planning case study

Master Sanderson, Rogers v Rogers Young [2016] WASC 208

Kathleen Rogers loved her daughter, Alexandra.

Mum’s Will left everything to her. Mum died of cancer when Alexandra was not yet 18. The Estate was intended to be held in trust until Alexandra was 25.

  • Unfortunately, mum’s newsagent Will Kit did not agree.
  • The Will was ambiguous as to what '25 years of age' meant.

The DIY Will kit ended up costing the daughter an additional $200,000: $100,000 to attack a Will and $100,000 to defend and the costs were all paid by the estate, so 18-year-old Alexandra lost out here.

Save your loved ones the headaches and stress. Use our Modern Estate Planning service to get your estate planning documents and Wills finally sorted.

author pic drew browneDrew Browne is a specialty Financial Risk Advisor working with Small Business Owners & their Families, Dual Income Professional Couples, and diverse families. He's an award-winning writer, speaker, financial adviser and business strategy mentor. His business Sapience Financial Group is committed to using business solutions for good in the community. In 2015 he was certified as a B Corp., and in 2017 was recognised in the inaugural Australian National Businesses of Tomorrow Awards. Today he advises Small Business Owners and their families, on how to protect themselves, from their businesses.  He writes for successful Small Business Owners and Industry publications. You can read his Modern Small Business Leadership Blog here. You can connect with him on LinkedIn Any information provided is general advice only and we have not considered your personal circumstances. Before making any decision on the basis of this advice you should consider if the advice is appropriate for you based on your particular circumstance.

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