What are Wills?
Most people should have a Will. Itâ€™s a legal document which allows you to clearly state what you want to happen to your assets once you pass away. It is something that not everyone considers or remembers to do, but it is something that is important even if you use other planning tools to distribute your assets. Wills can distribute your assets, such as property, naming guardians for children, naming an executor and much more. By having a Will, you are able to leave instructions for the distribution of your assets, whilst naming an executor of your Will to carry out your instructions on your behalf.
If you have a Will, it provides you with the comfort of knowing that your assets from your lifeâ€™s work will be distributed and managed according to your wishes. The assets that you leave behind can have both financial and sentimental value and you may want certain items to be inherited by specific family members, or other acquaintances. By having a Will, you also have the opportunity to allocate an inheritance to children from previous relationships, as well as to charities, organisations, community groups and friends.
Your Will also provides the opportunity to exclude certain family members whom you do not wish to have access to your assets. However, you should note that the law protects certain people who have been dependent on your disinheritance.
If you pass away with a Will in place, the executor you have named usually presents your Will to the local clerk of court and asks the court to authorise the executorâ€™s administration of your assets. This process is called probate. This is fairly straightforward unless potential problems arise, which is rarely the case. However, if you die without a Will, known as an intestate, the local court must monitor the estateâ€™s administration closely because the court will provide all the authority to act.
The importance of Wills
Even though a Will is probably one of the most important documents you will ever sign, it is something that not everyone does. In fact, almost one in two Australians donâ€™t have a valid Will. The reason for this could be from simple laziness, or due to the discomfort at the thought of one’s own death. Even though thinking about death makes the concept feel real, we all know that it is inevitable. It pays to be prepared for the worst, as this is always out of our control.
A common misconception is that only the elderly need to have a Will, however it is advisable for all adults regardless of age, to have one. It is especially important for parents with young children to have a Will, regardless of the scope of their assets. Failure to organise a will prior to death would result in the allocation of your assets and childrenâ€™s guardians falling to the government to decide.
Even if you are an adult but donâ€™t have a family of your own, you can still benefit from writing a Will. Throughout our lives we accomplish great things, such as buying houses, cars, land and generating monetary savings. Therefore, nobody else, aside from you, should have the right to decide how it will all be distributed in the event of your death. Without a Will, your post-death wishes are irrelevant and your assets will go to the government for them to decide how they will be distributed.
The importance of organising and preparing for death is realised when consideration goes towards what is to be taken care of after the fact. Wills ensure families remain solid through one of the toughest times in life, giving loved ones peace of mind by evenly allocating and sorting, not only funds and land, but items and possessions. The common misconception around Wills is that it is purely to sort which family members get land and other assets, however it also aids in bringing families clarity and resolution in a time of grief.
Choosing an executor
One of the most important decisions of a Will is choosing an executor, especially if you have significant property or investments. Administering your estate can require a lot of time and expertise, depending on the amount of assets you own. A relative or friend may not be the best option for your executor, as they may not be able to do the job effectively. You may want to choose someone who is experienced to ensure the effective administration of your Will.
A Will can reduce family conflict
The worst thing youâ€™d want is your family members disputing about who gets what after your passing. We can all agree that distributing oneâ€™s assets after death is an emotional and tough time. In times of grief, emotions are high and the slightest differences can result in hurt feelings. You can imagine how complicated the division of assets becomes when your family members dispute and speculate over what you would have wanted. Having a Will clearly states your wishes and to whom your assets go to, preventing potential future family conflict over your assets and property.
Make sure that your loved ones retain the quality of life you have built together by accurately distributing your assets as stated in your Will. There is nothing worse than passing without a written Will to state where your assets and property go to.
A Will must meet legal requirements
When you draft a Will, it is essential to adhere to the legal requirements. Most Wills are typed formal documents that are signed by the Will-maker in the presence of two witnesses who are not beneficiaries. If you are in need of a greater understanding of the legal requirements of the preparation of your Will, you may want to hire legal professional to assist you through the process.
Keep your Will updated
Once youâ€™ve decided to write a Will and have drafted it, it is also very important to keep it up to date. Life gets busy. Marriage, children, real estate and investments all generate life-changing events that require further consideration for updating your Will. In order to keep your Will updated, you should review it after any of the following events:
- You get married or divorced
- You are unmarried but have a new partner
- A significant change in the amount of money and/or property you own
- You move to another state or country
- Your executor or significant beneficiary in your Will dies
- You give birth to a new child or adopt a child in your family
- You change your mind about the distribution of assets in your Will
It is also important to avoid mistakes when writing your Will, as well as ensuring you have a witness sign or witness your will properly, otherwise the document will automatically become invalid or obsolete. It is highly recommended that you change your Will every five years, or as mentioned previously, if there is a major change to your family or division of assets.
Whilst there are legal fees associated with hiring a lawyer to draft a Will, people now can choose to write up their own Wills. There are a number of inexpensive, do-it-yourself options that are now available which eliminate legal costs. Given the abundance of options and alternatives to writing up a Will, there is simply no excuse not to plan for the inevitable. Even though death is an uncomfortable topic to think about, it is something we simply cannot control, however we can certainly plan for it. By drafting a Will, you can ensure that your family and loved ones are taken care of according to your specific wishes, as opposed to the will of the government. However, if you feel overwhelmed by this notion, or have a complicated estate portfolio, or you simply want to trust the professionals, it is always an option to hire a solicitor to get it done for you to the highest industry standards.
Here at Cornerstone Legal, we understand the importance of Wills. Our lawyers have the relevant experience and knowledge in the preparation of Wills and effective estate planning. We provide guidance and support to our clients to ensure a smooth and swift preparation of your Will, leaving no unanswered questions along the way. We invite you to safe guard your future by contacting us today at Cornerstone Legal â€“ your leading Wills and estate lawyers in Perth. At the end of the day, it always pays to be prepared.