A recent client was outraged that she was charged fees for the drafting of a simple will and power of attorney, on the basis that she could download “ten or more free wills” off the internet.
This was after I gave her excellent advice about a range of factors specific to her situation, and assisted her with an interim will and superannuation binding death benefit nomination, in circumstances where, if she had died, her wealth would not have ended up with the family member of her choice. That her will and enduring power of attorney ended up being simple, was not indicator of the complexity of the advice and service she received.
In the end, I know that the advice and service I gave her was worth far more than the bill we rendered. Estate law, and estate planning, is about far more than “a few words”.
The benefit of proper advice is not always just the will, as it often the other advice given that adds huge value to the legacy you leave for your family.
I often say to my clients that estate planning, no matter how simple your estate, is not about the will. The advice given can assist clients to avoid costly disasters. The actual cost of a free will, is often so much more than anyone might think, because of the many problems that are frequently caused when a will is prepared by a person without legal knowledge.
In the same week that my client behaved so … strangely, a judge in a New South Wales case commented on how the costs of repairing the damage caused by the preparation of a simple free will and power of attorney by a person without legal qualifications was such that the “deceased could have several wills prepared by a professional for a fraction of the cost that has been imposed on her estate” by the court proceedings.
And, in the same week, I was instructed to advise on a deceased person’s “will-form” will that will cost many many thousands to have admitted to probate because of the many problems with the will. The preliminary advice, alone, will cost much more than the cost of the relatively simple estate planning that was required.
I will be the first to say that some of the worst estate disputes I have seen have been caused by the preparation of wills by lawyers who lack sufficient succession law knowledge and experience, but really, would you perform heart surgery on your own child?
Even if you were a heart surgeon, probably not!
Estate planning and will preparation are legal matters. They have legal operation and will have a particular effect that may be different to what you want. You can use the law to have the effect you want, but really, why should lawyers be expected to work for free?