We are all going to die.
We should all leave our affairs in order before that inevitability occurs.
Yet New Zealanders seem to drag their feet when it comes to drafting a will. Most people only begin to think about creating a will when they purchase their first property or start a family and we simply do not otherwise prioritise.
Wills are important legal documents that allow you to decide what happens to yourself and to your belongings after you die. If you die without a will then the Administration Act 1969 decides how your property will be distributed among your family.
You have no say in the matter. In contrast, a well-drafted will should ensure that your assets go exactly where you intend them to. A well-drafted will also ensure you can choose someone you trust to be in charge of your property and what will happen to your body after you die.
Although it might seem easier to do a quick search online or buy a template will, this is risky business. Wills are relatively inexpensive when you consider how important they are and the consequences of a DIY job gone wrong.
For a will to be valid it must be written by someone of sound mind, signed and that signature witnessed by at least two people who are not beneficiaries.
While doing it yourself might seem easier and cheaper at the time, there is the potential for DIY wills to cause several problems down the track when your loved ones attempt to distribute your estate. It is very common for home-made wills not to be executed correctly and are not drafted carefully enough to make the will-maker's intentions clear.
These issues often result in the court refusing to accept the will as valid, which can result in an expensive legal nightmare for the family.
In some cases, the court may decide to ignore the DIY will and revert back to the standard distribution rules in the Administration Act (which is exactly what the will-maker did not want).
Before property can be distributed in accordance with a will, the court must give an order that the will complies with all the requirements and is declared valid.
This process is called probate. Only on being granted probate, do executors then have the right to distribute an estate. Probate applications become incredibly difficult to process through the courts when an error has been made in a will.
There are strict requirements that must be met before the court will make an order granting probate.
It is not uncommon for DIY wills to contain seemingly insignificant errors, which result in probate being rejected and a lengthy and costly process for the family of having the error fixed.
Once the will is made there is always the problem of where to keep it. When you draft the document yourself it is often kept among personal papers or filed away never to be seen again.
With the demand of everyday life important paperwork can become lost over time and your family is unlikely to know where it is kept or if it even exists.
Your will is the one document that you do not want to lose and going through your lawyer is always the best option to ensure your will is not only drafted correctly, but is kept in safe hands.
Your lawyer will store your will in a deeds vault and electronic copies are taken to ensure that there is a copy available, even if disaster strikes.
Delaney Keightley-Phillipps is a solicitor at Treadwell Gordon