We hear from a lot of people trying to avoid paying for legal help in Victoria by choosing the DIY route. In these cash-strapped times, especially over the last decade when retirement investments have often decreased in value in real terms, nobody wants to spend time in a lawyer’s office paying hefty hourly fees to work out an estate plan or create a will.
On top of that, a lot of us get queasy contemplating our own demise, so actively making the time to schedule an appointment with a lawyer to discuss wills and estates is often put off until it’s too late.
However, there are many of us who are motivated to create a will, with the intention of making sure things are taken care of when we die (just a quick note: the difference between wills and estate planning is that, for starters, a will comes into play when someone dies, while estate planning is how you manage your financial affairs before you die or are incapacitated).
Some people, in an effort to avoid what they perceive as expensive legal help, instead choose create simple wills using software or even online tools. It’s cheap, they think, and covers the basics of managing one’s estate. It’s kind of like using software to prepare an income tax return.
However, estate planning is never quite as simple as filling in the blanks in a software program, pressing a button, and having the computer do everything for you. It isn’t unusual for someone to come in for a ‘simple’ will only to find out that they need to deal with succession issues in their business if they are incapacitated.
In other cases, people who have assets such as company shares and land often miss out the opportunity to defer taxes and transfer growth to their children during their lifetime.
So choosing the DIY method isn’t really helping minimize risk or save money at all.
On the other hand, visiting a lawyer can be, at least in the short term, expensive for people struggling to pay bills and save for retirement. There is a simple trick for maximizing the time spent with a lawyer, and get the best bang for your buck:
Sometimes a lot of time is spent with a lawyer just trying to untangle different assets, and then mulling over how you want to plan your estate: who gets what, etc. This approach is kind of like showing up at your accountant’s office in tax season with a shoebox full of receipts.
Instead, before ever visiting a lawyer, document all of your assets, identify potential beneficiaries, and try to go in with a general plan of what you would like to do. Your lawyer may suggest a different course of action, but at least you are better prepared, and will make the most out of your time.
Dinning Hunter provides legal help in Victoria