A “Will” or what’s sometimes called the “Last Will and Testament” is an important legal document. It decides what happens to your belongings when you die. Unfortunately, a large proportion of the Australian population doesn’t have a valid or current Will. This potentially means that there are many people who die without having made the proper arrangements which only cause more grief and complications for the friends and family that they leave behind.
The reasons for not having a valid or current Will are varied, but they all seem to stem from a misunderstanding of what’s involved with making a Will and how easy it can be when you have the right advice.
Here’s a list of frequently asked questions to help clear any doubts you might have about making a Will.
A Will is an important legal document that expresses your wishes as to how you want your assets to be distributed after you die. You can also appoint someone to look after your assets (ie, your trustee) and your children (ie, your children’s guardian) if they are under 18 years old.
From a social perspective, a Will is your last testament and forms part of your legacy. A well crafted Will ensures that you don’t leave problems or a mess for your family and friends to sort out.
Anyone over the age of 18 years should have a valid and current Will, and if that’s you – then you need a Will too.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re married or have children, and it doesn’t matter whether you think you own anything of value. The reason that you need a Will is because one day, you will die.
This is the common thread that connects all of us. We’re born into this world and we’ll eventually leave this world – and when that happens, what are you leaving behind?
Someone’s going to have to sort out your estate after your passing, and having a Will is intended to make their job easier – so even if you don’t do it for yourself, you really should be doing it for the friends and family that you leave behind.
Having a valid Will is the best way to ensure that your assets will be taken care of and distributed as you intended. Otherwise, your estate will be distributed according to the law in your State and result in an outcome that you never wanted or expected. For many of our clients, the applicable law is that of the state of New South Wales, Australia.
Making a Will is relatively inexpensive, especially when you compare it to the potential consequences that can arise from not having a Will.
In most cases, we offer fixed fees for our Will services to help our clients budget for the cost and to give them peace of mind.
Normally, the cost of making a Will relates to the work involved, both in terms of drafting as well as advice. If you have a complicated asset structure or if you have a complex family structure or personal relationships, then it’s possible that your Will is going to be more expensive compared to someone whose life is relatively simple.
If you die without a legally valid Will, there’s no formal record of how you intend to distribute your estate or to whom you wish to distribute it to.
In such cases, the laws of intestacy apply and your belongs will be distributed according to a pre-determined formula based on the law in your state. If the formula isn’t according to your wishes or not in the best interest of your family, then you’ve basically left problems for them to deal with on top of having to deal with your passing. Is that what you really want for them?
There may also be other potential challenges, whether legal or otherwise for the surviving members of your family which can cause them unnecessary financial and emotional distress.
You can review or update your Will at any time. We recommend reviewing your Will whenever there’s a significant event in your life. For example:
- Marriages or divorces, including defacto relationships.
- Significant changes to assets
- Changes in wishes
Your Will is your ‘Last Will and Testament’ and the final word/legacy that you leave behind. Accordingly, it’s important that your Will properly reflects your situation, circumstances and your wishes, and is kept up to date.
There are many ways to make a Will. But since it’s an important legal document, you should obtain specific legal advice and assistance. That’s where our office can help you.
Applying the law to your personal situation and circumstances is what we do best! We make sure that your Will properly reflects your wishes and is legally valid. However, don’t think that a Will is something that we can just give to you. It takes your input as much as it takes our expertise and so be prepared for the process that’s necessary to ensure that it’s done right.
Of course, there are less reliable ways of making a Will, which can include doing it yourself (unless you know what you’re doing) or by buying a Do-It-Yourself Will kit. Will kits are readily available online but they can also be bought from your local Australia Post shop.
If you’re not familiar with the law relating to making Wills (or probate, being the legal process of proving the Will in court after you have passed away) then trying to write your own Will could be risky. In fact, having a poorly written Will can be more dangerous than not having a Will at all.
Also, the problem with the DIY Will kit is that it’s not suitable for everyone. The kits are intended to address generic situations which may have no relevance to your own situation at all. Again, attempting to rely on general information to write a Will specific to your situation could have unknown consequences.
Too many people these days attempt to get guidance from the internet. Search engines provide knowledge but they cannot offer wisdom. Knowledge is only useful if you can properly apply it and when it comes to Wills, you need to be able to apply it to your situation so that it will be not only legally valid but also relevant.