Why do we need a will?
Why do we need a Will? – People mainly use them to write down family members they want to provide for if they die, and how they want to distribute what they own. Wills also let us specify someone we would like to look after our kids or to leave special gifts and meaningful things to people or organisations we choose. They can include special instructions for a funeral, and they typically name the person who will carry out our wishes. If we don’t have one, or if ours is not valid for some reason, what we would like to happen may not happen in reality. This could put our families into legal and financial difficulties.
Top 5 tips for wills
- When we get married, the will we wrote before marriage is no longer valid.
- If we die without a will, all our assets do not automatically go to our partner.
- If we die without a will, the government will use a formula to divide up our assets.
- The last will we signed – even if it’s out of date – will be the one used if we die.
- Wills are not just about what we leave to people – they can also identify the person we want to look after our children.
How to make a will
Don’t have a will yet, or need to update a previous will? We can get one drafted by someone with experience, such as a lawyer or trustee company.
A will must also be signed and witnessed. If the proper procedures are not followed, a will may not be valid.
- Instructions in our will can include:
- Our partner, children, grandchildren, other family members or friends we want to provide for
- Any family trust that we wish to leave property, money, or other assets to
- Specific bequests such as cash payments, jewellery, artwork or furniture we want to leave to particular family members or friends
- Any charities or organisations we may want to leave money to
- Details of how we would like our funeral to be carried out
It’s a good idea to set up enduring powers of attorney at the same time as making a will.
- A will needs both an executor and a trustee. An executor obtains probate of our will from the court (when required) and the trustee carries out our wishes as set out in our will when we die.
- We can appoint a family member as the executor and the trustee – even if they are going to benefit from the will – but make sure they’re happy to take on the role.
- We can appoint more than one executor and trustee, letting them share the work and the responsibility.
- Appointing a professional executor and trustee is often a good idea, particularly if the estate is large or complicated.
- Some lawyers and professional trustee companies write wills for free, providing they are named as executor. They will charge our estate a fee for acting as the executor and trustee.
Keeping a will
- If we already have a will, is it up-to-date? Does it reflect our current situation? Our financial or personal circumstances may have changed since we signed it.
- Whenever we go through a big life change like the birth of a child or separation, we should review our will.
- For example, if we get married or enter a civil union our will is automatically revoked unless it states otherwise or specifically says that it was made with regard to the coming union.
- Other life events like the birth of children or grandchildren, or the purchase of a property, are all good reasons to check our will.
- Make sure to keep a copy of the will in a safe and accessible place – and let the executor and loved ones know where it is.
If our will can’t be found, our last wishes can’t be followed!