Wills sound like something that could be done using an online service or a kit purchased from a post office or newsagent. However, much of what crosses our desks (and sometimes the benches of Supreme Court judges) suggests that careful thought should be given before trying it yourself.
Saving money on preparation of a Will can translate to expensive errors when courts are called on to interpret what the will maker meant to say in their Will.
A case in point was the Will of Angela Helen Thompson, which came before the Supreme Court of Western Australia in May this year (Trevor Alan Thompson as executor of the estate of Angela Helen Thompson  WASC 158). Angela prepared and completed a homemade Will dated 3 October 2015. She died on 1 September 2017. She made her husband executor of her Will. It is the executor’s job to carry out the terms of a Will. Unfortunately, the way Angela prepared her Will left her husband (Trevor Thompson) unclear on aspects of what it meant.
Trevor took the (entirely appropriate) step of applying to the Supreme Court of Western Australia to determine what parts of Angela’s Will meant. Clearly, this was an expensive exercise. Angela’s estate was described by the Court as being ‘very modest’. Angela’s two adult children, Sarah & Laura, disagreed with the interpretation of Angela’s Will offered by Trevor and were separately represented.
The Court decided on what the disputed parts of Angela’s Will meant. It then commented as follows:
There is no doubt a good part of the estate will be consumed in a contest over the meaning of what by any measure is a difficult document [i.e. Angela’s homemade Will]. It is invariably the case that money spent on having a will professionally drafted is a sound investment….In cases such as this, it is usual for all of the costs of the parties to be paid out of the estate. There appears to be no reason why such an order should not be made.
So, in this as in many other cases we see that a homemade Will becomes a false economy. As Master Sanderson of the Supreme Court of Western Australia stated in Angela Thompson’s case, having a will professionally drafted is a sound investment.