Creating a valid will is one of the most important things you can do to protect your loved ones.
Here we explain how to go about it.
1. Seek legal advice
While DIY will kits can seem like an easy and inexpensive way to make a will, they can be fraught with pitfalls.
Your affairs are probably more complex than you think – your family home, other properties, business assets, superannuation, investments and personal belongings. You may be surprised to learn that not all assets are covered as standard in a Will and stay outside of your estate. Having a properly drawn up will helps to determine who gets what and can save your family time and stress when you are gone. And not all assets are automatically included in your estate and may need separate provision made to ensure their distribution.
Your lawyer or financial planner will also be able to provide insights into how to best structure your will, both to protect assets and to minimise tax. Examples include setting up a testamentary trust to provide for minors or protecting your estate from creditors.
2. Safeguard your children’s future
Probably one of the most important reasons to make a will is to ensure any dependent children are well cared for should the worst happen.
Sydney wills, probate and estate specialist, Graeme Heckenburg of Heckenberg Lawyers, says generally parents should make separate rather than joint wills, as they are likely to die at different times.
Heckenburg says a will should also appoint a guardian to take care of the day to day living and housing arrangements for the children and a trustee to execute the will and make any financial decisions. This can be one person or two different people.
“If you don’t appoint a guardian and there are young children, ultimately the decision will be made by the Guardianship Tribunal [in NSW]. If the guardianship is contested, the matter could even end up in the Supreme Court,” he says.
If you have adult children, you also need to consider their circumstances. If they’re caught up in a divorce or bankruptcy issues, any inheritance can form part of their assets, which may not be what you wish.
Vulnerable adult children also need to be considered as receiving a large lump sum may not be in their best interests either.
3. Keep your will updated
Once you have made a will, don’t leave it in a drawer gathering dust.
Circumstances change over time, and often quickly, so ensure your will reflects your current situation, particularly if your spouse has died, you have married, re-married or divorced or you have become a parent or step-parent.
We’d love to help or put in touch with our legal experts who can assist with your estate planning.