A Will is a legal document in which you say what you want to happen to your assets after you die. Making a will allows you to choose who out of your family members and other loved ones gets what. It also allows you to nominate an ‘executor’, who is the person responsible for making sure your wishes are met.

Having a Will is important as it allows you to decide what happens to the assets you have accumulated over your lifetime and provides peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out. If you die without a valid Will the Supreme Court has the power to distribute your assets according to the laws of intestacy and unfortunately, this means your wishes may be overlooked.

A Will can be as simple or as complex as necessary and can be written by you if you’d rather not involve lawyers. However, if your estate involves complex financial, legal and tax issues, you may need specialised advice and have your will drawn up by a solicitor.

What should I include in my Will?

Wills reflect the unique lives of the people behind them and, throughout history, there have been countless, interesting versions. However, in order for your Will to be legally valid, there are certain rules you need to follow. To avoid any confusion, you should clearly state in the document that this is your last Will and that it revokes any previous Wills, if this is the case. You should appoint at least one person to be your ‘executor’, the person responsible for carrying out the instructions you have laid out in your Will. 

You also need to clearly state how you want your property distributed, either by naming specific items and to whom you want it given. For example, if you want your granddaughter to have your engagement ring and leave your car to your grandson, you need to explicitly state this in your Will.

You can also divide up your assets by giving loved ones a certain percentage of the total value of your property and the remaining assets of your estate. You should also allow for payment of any outstanding debts and your Will may include other requests, such as your preferred funeral arrangements. 

The key requirements for making a valid Will are as follows:

  • You must be over the age of eighteen and mentally competent to write a Will
  • Your Will must be in writing
  • Although the rules vary slightly depending on the state or territory, common convention dictates that each page of the document needs to be signed and dated by you, as the testator, and two witnesses.

Once all of these points are met, your Will is considered ‘executed’ and becomes a legally binding document.

How do I change or update my Will?

Once you have signed your Will and it has been formally executed, you cannot make any changes to it, by crossing out or adding extra clauses. The best way to amend your Will is by doing so in a separate document, called a ‘codicil’.

For a codicil to be valid it must follow the same formal requirements as drafting and executing a Will. if the changes and alterations you want to make are substantial, it may be easier to draft a new Will.

If you marry after making your Will, you need to draw up a new document as your original Will is automatically revoked. Similarly, if you divorce it is advisable to review your Will and may need to have a new one drafted.

A lawyer or legal adviser can help you if you’d like to know more about writing your Will.

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