When we die, our assets and other belongings will typically be given to our immediate family. States have varying rules with regards to this, but oftentimes the wealth that you have left behind will be distributed among your wife and children. If you want to customize the way by which your assets would be distributed, however, then it would be time to create a will.
While there are some sites that allow you to create your own will, and with DIY wills also being available, the best way to draft a will would be through a lawyer. This will take the guesswork out of creating your document, and this will also ensure that the proper procedures are done to make sure that you have a valid will.
These are the things that you have to know when you decide to make a will in Australia.
How to Write a Will
First and foremost, only those who are 18 years old and above or who are married can write a will. In most cases, it should also be specified that you are of sound mind when creating your will, and is not coerced or forced to do so. Your will must also be in written format; it can either be handwritten or typewritten. While any type of paper will be accepted in court, opt to get a clean, white, unmarked sheet to write, type, or print your will on.
It should list down all of your assets and belongings, and it should specifically mention who you would like to give them to. Avoid using general terms such as “my spouse” or “my children” as these can be disputed during execution. Whenever possible, use full names along with birthdays and addresses when writing about specific people. It would also be advisable to be specific when indicating as to which asset or object you would like to give to each of your beneficiaries. If you wish to give the charities or other organizations, then you should indicate these as well.
Other things that you can include in your will would be exclusions. In the event that you don’t want to include a certain family member in your will, you should indicate their full name as well as to why you do not want them to receive anything once you pass away. You can also include into your will your final instructions on what to do with your body once you are gone. You can indicate specific instructions with regard to your wake, whether you would like to get buried or cremated, and what to do with the remains afterwards. Lastly, include who you would like to take care of your children, pets, or company when you die as well.
You should also include, by name, the executor of your will. The executor is someone that the person creating the will can trust as they will be in charge of settling your accounts, paying of your debts, contacting your heirs, and distributing your wealth once you pass away. While you can nominate a close friend or a trusted family member as executor of your will, you can also hire a lawyer to do this. If you did not appoint an executor in your will, then the court may supply one for you.
Lastly, you must sign your will in order to make it valid. It should also be signed by at least two witnesses that should neither be your spouse or any of your intended beneficiaries or their spouses. Witnesses should also be 18 years or above at the time of witnessing and signing. They must be present to see you signing the document before they would be able to sign as well. It is important to sign not only the end of the document but also the bottom of every page of the will in order to avoid tampering. Witnesses may not know the actual content or details of the will, but they should know that the document that they are witnessing being signed is actually a will.
Once the document has been completed, you can store it in a safe and secure place such as a lock box or a safety deposit box. It would also be a good idea to provide a copy to your lawyer or executor. It should be noted that you can arrange for these wills to be opened upon your death. Someone, most likely a spouse, close friend, or lawyer, should also know about the presence and location of these documents, as well as how to access them.
Things to Consider When Writing Your Will
When creating your will, you should consider that debt that you have not yet paid off when you die will be taken from any assets that you have left behind. Your executor will be the one to perform liquidation of assets and paying off of debts before your heirs get anything. Likewise, joint assets automatically go to the co-owner upon your death, while assets such as life insurance and superannuations will be honored outside of the will unless these are modified such that your estate or executor will now become the beneficiary, with the will then being able to define where those assets will go.
You should also take note that, should you get married or divorced, you should update your will immediately as these changes, if not reflected in the will, can make the document invalid or at least more difficult to execute. You should also take note that your beneficiaries may also be liable to pay taxes based on what they have received.
Lastly, you should be aware that both heirs as well as those excluded from the list. In most cases, you executor would be the ones that would handle this. However, there are usually no hitches for as long as your will is clear and concise. In some cases, witnesses may be called upon during court hearings for inheritance disputes to validate the authenticity of the will.
As early as now, it would be a wise decision to think of where you would like to have your personal belongings go when you die. While it may be morbid to think of such things, this will lead to complications later on should the inevitable happen. As such, it would be prudent to have a will ready and to update it regularly every couple of years.