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DIY will kit review

We look at five DIY will kits to see if they do the job.

family walking along a path
Last updated: 21 May 2020

Don't have a will? You're not alone – nearly half of Australians don't have one, and the COVID-19 crisis is prompting an increasing number of people to write their own and take care of their estate planning.

Even if you do have a will, chances are it may not be up to date. If you've gotten married or divorced, had a baby, or one of your beneficiaries has died, part or all of your will may no longer even be valid.

It's not the nicest thing to think about, but it's good to be prepared. By not preparing for the worst, you may cause delay and expense for your family at an already emotional time.

Should you use a DIY will kit?

Going to a lawyer can be expensive, but will kits can be an excellent low-cost or free research tool. Depending on your situation and skills, they can help you write your will, but they can't adequately handle complex situations such as blended families or self-managed super funds.

Making sure your loved ones are provided for is far too important to leave to chance, and the consequences could be disastrous if you get it wrong. We recommend you get some expert advice as well.

A word of caution, with all will kits, there is the considerable danger of not completing it properly. Especially with kits that aren't in an electronic form, many lack prompts to complete necessary sections or questions and it can be easy to overlook something. 

Five DIY will kits reviewed

australian seniors plain english legal will kit

Australian Seniors – paper-based will kit

CHOICE verdict: The Australian Seniors' will kit contains in-depth explanations and helpful instructions. It could be suitable for a simple will. 

Cost: Free

Website: seniors.com.au

Good points

  • Explains all the important terms; includes FAQ section
  • Index makes finding relevant information straightforward
  • Adequate information about appointing an executor
  • Deals with guardianship for children
  • Gives summary of issues that require professional legal advice
  • Free of charge

Bad points

  • Mentions superannuation but gives no explanation on how it relates to the will
  • Taxation only mentioned briefly
  • Doesn't reference specific clauses which makes finding them difficult
  • Doesn't allow you to include a clause that prevents the will from being revoked if you marry your current partner
  • Not suitable if you have multiple beneficiaries
  • Doesn't include clause to determine powers of the executors
  • Doesn't include an option for your grandchildren to inherit the share of their deceased parent (your child)
  • No designated place on each page for user and witnesses to sign
victorian state trustees legal will kit will form

Victorian State Trustees – paper-based will kit

CHOICE verdict: The Victorian State Trustees' will form and planning guide contains the most comprehensive background information and is the easiest to read. The inclusion of a sample completed will and explanations on how to complete each clause reduce the likelihood of errors.

Cost: $31.50

Website: statetrustees.com.au

Good points:

  • Detailed instructions and easy-to-read planning guide
  • Contains a sample completed will which is very helpful
  • Includes a record of important personal information such as assets, liabilities, wishes about the care of children, and people to contact
  • Deals with superannuation and its relevance to estate planning in a clear and concise way
  • Comprehensive information about guardianship for children with sample wording
  • Good information about appointing an executor with sample clauses
  • Designated place on each page for user and witnesses to sign
  • Gives a summary of issues that require professional legal advice

Bad points

  • No guidance about what forms part of a person's estate
  • Taxation only mentioned briefly
  • Inconsistencies in the notes about what revokes a will
  • No warning against holding the will at home (if a will can't be found it will be assumed you have destroyed it as you wanted to revoke it)
lawdepot home page

LawDepot – online will kit

CHOICE verdict: The LawDepot Will kit is electronic and turns the entered instructions into a completed will that you can print – which is helpful. But it contains many clauses that are unnecessary, which could be confusing.

Cost: Free

Website: lawdepot.com/au

Good points

  • Information is easily accessible on the landing page and through the will form; includes FAQ section
  • Has a helpful progress bar which lets you navigate straight to a particular page of the instruction sheet
  • Contains a sample completed will which is helpful
  • Deals with guardianship for children and gives good guidance on what will happen until the child is old enough to inherit
  • Choice of executor dealt with adequately
  • Free of charge

Bad points

  • No guidance about what forms part of your estate
  • Contains many unnecessary clauses for a simple will 
  • Does not give guidance on superannuation
  • Does not mention taxation
  • It's possible to only enter first names for beneficiaries, which can create confusion
  • Relationship of beneficiaries not specified, which could create confusion
  • Doesn't allow including a clause that prevents the will from being revoked if you marry your current partner
  • No option to include wishes for your funeral
  • Contains a clause that puts a condition on the inheritance (that a beneficiary does not contest the will). This clause cannot be legally enforced and is therefore void
  • The attestation clause (records the circumstances of the signing and witnessing of the will) includes unnecessary statements
  • Does not advise to get professional legal advice when in doubt
  • No designated place on each page for user and witnesses to sign
lawpath free will creation page

LawPath – online will kit

CHOICE verdict: The LawPath will kit's choice of executor instructions are the easiest to navigate of the kits we looked at. It could be suitable for a simple will. As it's electronic, it turns the entered instructions into a completed will that you can print, which is helpful. 

Cost: Free

Website: lawpath.com.au

Good points

  • General Information easily accessible on the landing page
  • Contains a sample completed will which is very helpful
  • Deals with guardianship for children
  • Choice of executor instructions easy to navigate
  • Lets you preview the draft will as you progress through the instructions 
  • Free of charge

Bad points

  • No guidance about what forms part of your estate
  • Problem with importing the guardianship for children clause into the will document
  • Does not mention superannuation
  • Does not mention taxation
  • It's possible to only enter first names for beneficiaries, which can create confusion
  • Relationship of beneficiaries not specified, which could create confusion
  • Doesn't allow inclusion of a clause that prevents the will from being revoked if you marry your current partner
  • Doesn't include a clause to determine powers of the executors
  • Doesn't explain when professional legal advice is needed
legalwill will creation first page

Legalwill.com.au – online will kit

CHOICE verdict: The Legalwill.com.au will kit is electronic and turns the entered instructions into a completed will that you can print, which is helpful. But it is the most complicated of the kits we looked at. For example, the way gifts are dealt with could cause errors.

Cost: $25 singles; $40 couples

Website: legalwill.com.au

Good points

  • Deals with guardianship for children and allows nomination of an alternate guardian if the first one isn't available
  • General information is easily accessible on the landing page; also includes a link to FAQ section.
  • Has a progress bar but it can be a bit cumbersome
  • Choice of executor instructions contain a useful explanation of options such as a single or jointly appointed executors
  • Has a designated place on each page for user and witnesses to sign

Bad points

  • No guidance about what forms part of your estate
  • Some instructions are long and confusing
  • Superannuation only briefly mentioned and not explained
  • Doesn't mention taxation
  • Doesn't protect you from leaving less than 100% of shares of your estate
  • Deals with gifts in a confusing way
last will and testament

Getting legal advice on drafting a will can cost anywhere between $350 and $1000 for a couple.

How to draft your will

While the rules vary across the states, there are some common things to keep in mind:

  • You must be at least 18 years old or married. The will must be in writing, and you must be of sound mind and understand the implications of making a will.
  • Be clear. Rather than simply writing 'my spouse', state their full name.
  • Your will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses, who also need to sign the will in your presence. It's best for the witnesses and the will-maker to also sign each page and to use the same pen. Also, ensure the witnesses aren't beneficiaries or the spouse of a beneficiary.
  • Appoint an executor. The executor's job can be onerous and time-consuming. For example, the executor may need to apply to the Supreme Court for probate – a formal document to get permission to administer your estate, lodge a tax return and establish any trusts (for example, if you have young children). Appoint a substitute executor just in case, such as a solicitor.
  • Update your will when your circumstances change. A new de-facto relationship, marriage, separation or divorce, having a baby, the death of a beneficiary or your executor becoming unavailable are some common examples. As a rule of thumb, review and update your will every three years.
  • Get legal advice. This can cost anywhere between $350 and $1000 (for a couple).
  • Keep your will in a safe place.

Traps with drafting your own will

  • Financial arrangements made in your lifetime, such as debts, don't die with you – they must be honoured by your estate.
  • Superannuation is a minefield. Unless you have a current binding nomination, selecting the beneficiaries may be up to the discretion of the trustee of your fund.
  • Even if you disinherit immediate family members or dependants, they may still be able to contest your will. They would normally need to convince the court that you have failed to make adequate provisions for their proper maintenance, education or advancement in life.

When should you get legal advice to draft your will?

There are a lot of issues that need special attention to make sure your will is valid and your wishes will be carried out. They could include the following:

  • a change in marital status such as marriage, separation or divorce
  • balancing needs of your new partner and your children
  • obligations you have to stepchildren or other non-relatives who are (or claim to be) dependents
  • taxation of estate assets
  • superannuation – and making a binding benefit nomination
  • jointly held assets such as property
  • a gift you give to someone before you die
  • future control of a company or family trust
  • distribution of sentimental items
  • pets