Making a Will
Why make a will
I know this is an area I prefer not to think about,
and one I therefore avoid, but if something were to
happen to me, I would want to make life as easy as possible
for the other half and the kids, and a will can help
Having a valid Will in place will ensure that when
you die your estate will be distributed amongst your
loved ones in line with your wishes. If you don't have
a Will, an administrator is appointed to manage your
estate. The administrator might be a family member but
is often a government Trustee.
Without a Will, your assets will be distributed according
to current legislation, and the law will determine who
will look after your children, if they are still minors.
A Will can also be used to appoint a guardian to look
after your children until they are old enough to look
Having a Will allows you to nominate an executor, who
is the person who will take charge of your affairs after
If you die without a Will, this is called being 'intestate'.
This type of estate is harder to administer and will
take longer to finalise, increasing the cost from your
estate and meaning your beneficiaries have to wait longer
to receive their entitlements.
What is included in a Will?
In a Will, you state who is the beneficiary of your
assets and you can detail specific gifts as well as
make a general statement as to who will receive the
remainder of your assets.
Importantly, you can also specify what will happen
to your children if you and your husband or partner
were to pass away. You can nominate guardians for the
children and detail how your assets will be managed
on behalf of the children. You can also set up a trust
for those children.
Think of the stress it will save if it has been agreed
up front who will care for the children in your absence.
You can also include instructions for your burial or
cremation in your will.
When making a will, it is also useful to document your
assets. For example, my partner and I met in our 30s,
so we'd both had previous lives and both have investments
and bank accounts, life insurance policies etc, that
we set up before we knew each other. I know my partner
has some shares, but I couldn't tell you exactly who
with or how many. He knows I have an endowment policy,
but again he wouldn't know the details. If things like
this are listed with your Will, it makes the practical
aspects of a very emotional time, so much easier.
Who should make a will and when?
Everyone over the age of 18 should have
a will, but there are particular times in your life
when it is most important. Some examples are:
- if you get married, as this revokes
any existing will
- if you get divorced, as this does
not automatically revoke an existing will
- if you make a significant purchase
such as a house
- if you change your beneficiaries
e.g. a beneficiary dies, or you have a child
Husbands and wives, or partners, are
required to have separate Wills, although you can have
a 'mirror' Will, which is the same terms but just in
Options for making a will
There are a number of different ways
of setting up a Will.
You can purchase a Will form for singles or a couple
from your local newsagent. This allows you to put a
basic will together without requiring input from a lawyer.
You do need to ensure you get it witnessed to make it
a legal document - a will needs to be signed in the
presence of two witnesses who must be adults over the
age of 18 and who are not beneficiaries or spouses of
beneficiaries in your Will.
There is no requirement to register your Will, but
you should keep it in a safe place and let the executors
of the Will know where it is. A Will should not be amended
in any way after it has been witnessed, as this may
make it invalid.
There are a number of web sites that allow you to make
a Will on line. They may have some restrictions, such
as not being able to set up a trust, as this is something
you need to do with a lawyer, but they provide the requirements
for a basic Will, and will tell you some more about
the background and requirements. The ones I have found
are charging less than A$30 for a basic Will.
To find a recommendation, look at www.wordofweb.com.au.
If there are any complexities to your Will, it might
be best to talk to a lawyer, as this will ensure you
set things up correctly. For example, setting up a trust
for your children, or allowing flexibility in your Will
to allow for future children.
An 'estate planner' can give you advice on how to set
things up to be most tax effective, and advise on complexities
such as capital gains tax on property or superannuation