New Zealand: What is the benefit in paying for a will?

Last Updated: 11 February 2015
Article by Maria Young

Over the last 15 years there have been considerable changes in the law relating to wills. In addition society continues to change and as a result now days many relationships comprise children from multiple families. These are often referred to as "blended" families.

The effect of poor will drafting can be devastating. There have been numerous court cases where wills have been drafted that do not actually achieve the effect that they were intended to achieve. Many lawyers who do not specialise in will drafting have been caught out and they and their insurance companies have been sued for the losses suffered by the families. In addition, and perhaps of even more importance, the death of a loved one is a terrible time for family members and those who have been unfairly affected by a poorly drafted will.

The obligations on lawyers have increased significantly in relation to taking will instructions and proper drafting.

A will is a complex piece of legal work and needs to be treated as such. This means that the lawyer advising the client needs to be an expert in will drafting and needs to take all the time necessary to make sure the document is produced to an exceptionally high standard. This means that the days of the free wills are sadly gone.

It is just not possible for a lawyer to quickly "whip up" a will for a client and guarantee that they will be producing a correct document and one which will stand the scrutiny of a court case brought by those who are not mentioned in it, or those who think they are not adequately provided for in it.

Many years ago a client was able to walk into a lawyer's office and say that he wanted a will that left everything to his two children and, if they died, to their children. Nowadays that is insufficient. Lawyers are required to ask about previous relationships, possible previous children, get a clear understanding of all of the assets or potential assets that might be part of the estate and any other relevant information before they can effectively advise the client as to what their will should say and certainly before they draft and arrange for execution of the will.

We encourage all of our clients to consider the making of a will as one of the most important legal things they do. We understand that it is not pleasant to think about your own death, however, it is the one certainty in life and making sure that your estate operates as smoothly and efficiently as possible is an important goal. This requires your expert lawyer to take all the time necessary to understand your personal situation and to properly draft a will for you. Accordingly the days of the free will are now gone. However, a well drafted will is incredibly good value for the benefit they bring your loved ones.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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