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DIY drama

Family Forum often receives requests for information about DIY wills and the risks involved. Here is a cautionary tale from a Family Forum lawyer.

A recent decision of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory (The Estate of Alma Pasion, 2014, NTSC 16) highlights some of the issues caused by people who make a do-it-yourself will.

The deceased purchased a will kit and the will was correctly executed in the presence of two witnesses. The residue of the estate involved only a modest amount of money, after certain gifts were given to specified people.

The problem was the deceased nominated as her beneficiaries various banks, a life insurance company and a superannuation fund. It appeared the deceased thought she should list her assets in that part of the will where she was supposed to specify her residuary beneficiaries.

The deceased therefore left out the names of the persons whom she meant to benefit from the residue of her estate. This is known as a partial intestacy.

The court was then asked to determine who the beneficiaries ought to be. In this case the court found that as the deceased had no husband or partner, the children of the deceased were to receive the residuary estate under the relevant legislation.

Imagine asking a court to determine who should receive benefits under a deceased state. In this instance a simple error on the part of the deceased led to an expensive court case, the cost of which presumably would have been taken from the modest funds in the estate.

It is most important that every adult has a will, and just as important that it is an accurate statement of that person’s wishes.

There are a number of options for persons wishing to have a will prepared for free or at modest cost, including services offered by Community Legal Centres, the Australian Red Cross and the Public Trustee.

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