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  • Jeremy Callander

How much does a free Will really cost?

As you are probably well aware, there are commercial entities that offer services regarding the administration of trusts and deceased estates.  

These entities will often prepare a free Will for you (or virtually no charge). 

In exchange for preparing your free Will, these entities appoint themselves as the executor of your estate.  So when you die, the entity will administer your estate.

This kind of approach to Will-making and estate planning is problematic for a number of reasons.

First of all, the Will and the Will-maker are not the primary focus.  Rather, the primary focus is the entities’ business model – i.e. cultivating and maintaining a steady stream of estates-in-waiting.  

The greater the number of free Wills that the entities hand out, the greater the number of future revenue streams that are locked in for the benefit of those entities.

Now of course, when a lawyer prepares a Will for a client, the lawyer (not unreasonably) anticipates/hopes that they (or at least the law firm that employs them) may be engaged to assist with the administration of the Will-maker’s estate.  

Nonetheless, the Will-maker is completely free to change lawyers, and the executors of the Will-maker’s estate are (usually) equally free to engage a different lawyer and none of this requires any change to the Will itself.

But if the Will has been drafted by one of these commercial entities, the only way to end the entities’ involvement – realistically – is for the Will-maker to prepare a new Will.

Secondly, the economics of these transactions are more than just a little opaque.  

While it’s true that the Will itself comes free (or virtually free) of any immediate charge, the commercial entities in question will more than make up for this loss-leading when they begin invoicing the Will-maker’s estate.  

So while a Will-maker might save themselves anywhere between $200-$1500 (depending on the complexity of their affairs) by getting a ‘free Will’……their estate will incur legal costs that have the potential to be many times greater than whatever savings the Will-maker made by not going to a lawyer who specialises in estate planning and the drafting of Wills. 

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