A ‘Last Will & Testament’ (often simply called a ‘Will’) is a written record of how you would like your assets shared or distributed after your death.
However, making a will involves much more than just writing down a list of your assets and the people you want to leave them to. It is one of the most considerate things you can do for the people that matter most in your life and it is something that needs careful thought and planning in order to ensure that your wishes will be able to be fulfilled.
Do I really need a Will?
A common question that we hear is “I don’t own very much do I really need to have a Will?” The short answer to this question is ‘YES’. Regardless of the size of your asset pool it is important to have a valid Will.
If you die without a Will you will be said to have died ‘intestate’. If this occurs your assets will be distributed according to the relevant State law. This will of course be outside your control and may mean that your assets are not distributed in the way that you would have liked.
Having a Will gives you peace of mind that you have made your wishes clear as to how you want your assets to be divided up and administered.
Regardless of the size of your estate, what you do not want is for costly legal disputes to arise in respect of your assets. Disputes between would be beneficiaries can quickly consume an estate and properly prepared Will is the first step in avoiding this scenario.
Updating your Will
It is sensible to review your Will periodically. If your personal circumstances change it is especially important to review your Will to take into account those changes.
Important life changes such as marriage, divorce, the birth of children and any change in personal financial circumstances such as receiving an inheritance or buying a property are also relevant milestone points at which to consider updating a Will.
Are there rules about who I can leave my assets to?
While in theory you are able to prepare a Will leaving your estate to whomever you please, even if that is a home for stray cats, in reality it is very important to seek legal advice on this point.
Relevant matters may include whether you have any infant children or other dependents. In situations involving blended families or estranged children careful consideration also needs to be given to the likely impact of leaving individuals out of a Will and whether this is likely to lead to a costly legal dispute.
Appointing an Executor
The role of an Executor is a responsible one and while it can be tempting to choose your best friend or eldest child simply because it seems the right thing to do, it is important to consider whether the person you are thinking of naming as Executor has the capacity to carry out the role.
The question of who to appoint as executor is an important decision and something we can guide you on when preparing your Will.
It is important to seek legal advice prior to preparing or updating a Will. A validly prepared, properly witnessed and current Will is a good step in the right direction in ensuring that your assets are distributed how you want and to whom you want after your death.
If you are thinking of preparing or updating a Will please contact us and speak with one of our experienced specialist wills and estates lawyers. This is an area of law that we have considerable experience in and we are happy to discuss any questions you may have.