What is a will?
A will is a legal document that clearly states your wishes for how your assets should be distributed in the event of your death, as well as the person or organisation you would like to carry out said wishes.
A will is one of the most important legal documents you will ever sign; as it ensures that your possessions go to the people you want, such as your family or friends. Without one, your estate may be divided according to a government formula, which may not reflect your wishes and can cause pain and hardship for your loved ones.
There a several types of wills, including the following;
- Self-proving, testamentary will: A formally prepared document signed in the presence of a witness. This type of will is the traditional type and most people are familiar with it.
- Holographic will: These wills are written without the presence of a witness, and rarely hold up in court because of this.
- Oral will: These are spoken testaments given before witnesses, and are also not widely recognized from a legal perspective.
- Living will: Sets forth your wishes for medical care in terms of life support, and has nothing to do with the distribution of assets.
What does it include?
According to publictrustee.tas.gov.au, you should take care to include the following when making a will:
- Who you are, with enough information to clearly identify yourself
- The name of your executor
- Clear and concise instructions on how your assets should be distributed
- Details of the person(s) you wish to leave your assets to
- Any funeral arrangements you desire
- The name of a guardian to care for any underage children you may have
How do you do one?
The process for making a will in Australia can vary from state to state – you can find the appropriate links to your state’s trustees on ASICs wills page.
In most cases, it is recommended that you make an appointment with a private trustee or solicitor, who will guide you through the process, usually for a fee. You can also use Will kits from Australia Post or various websites, but ASIC recommends using a solicitor as a will can be ruled invalid if it isn’t signed or witnessed properly.
When should you do one?
There is really no set time or age that you should write a will, as it is dependent on your individual circumstances. You are allowed to make a legally binding will at any time after you turn 18, and there are several key stages throughout a person’s life that might cause them to consider writing a will.
The first stage that some people write wills at is when they become financially independent from their parents. If an unmarried person dies without a will, their assets will go to their parents or other living relatives. However, you may have other ideas once you reach financial independence.
The next stage that generally causes consideration of a will is marriage. This has less to do with age and more to do with the fact that you now have someone who may depend on you and would struggle in the event of your death. Marriage is also a time when you are likely to share assets with someone, such as a house.
Having children is often a trigger for people writing wills, as there are two main concerns that arise should you die who will look after them when you’re gone, and what assets of yours will be available to provide for their welfare. A will allows you to address both of these issues.
The fourth stage in a person’s life that causes the writing of a will is terminal illness and/or old age.
As said before, there is no set time to write a will, although it is the belief of many that you should write one as early as possible and update it accordingly, as there is no way to tell when you might die.