A Will is likely to be one of the most important documents that you will prepare and sign in your lifetime. For this reason it is important to take the necessary precautions in order to prevent mistakes and misunderstandings. This is not only so your wishes can be acted upon after you pass away but also to take away a lot of unnecessary stress from your loved ones at a time where it is least needed. It is essential to ensure that your last testament conveys exactly what you intend it to and to make sure that your Will is valid.
Things to consider when updating your Will:
- Make sure your Will is up to date. Although your financial circumstances may not have changed, usually your personal situation with your family and friends will change over time. For this reason it is imperative that you regularly update your Will so that it is current and new births, deaths and marriages are taken into account. Additionally, significant changes in your financial situation, such as the purchase or disposal of a property for example, should also be updated. If you don’t want to make a provision for a certain person, say a step sister or brother or ex-spouse, it is vital that this is clearly noted in the Will. This will reduce tensions between family members later on and prevent people from claiming they were overlooked.
- Marriage and divorce can make your existing Will invalid. After these milestones it is important to review and update your Will while taking any children into careful consideration. It is very important to use specific wording to try and avoid, or minimise the potential of, the Will being challenged.
- In order for a Will to be valid it must be signed and witnessed properly. The rules for this differ slightly in each state. Two independent adults who are not possible beneficiaries are usually required to witness a Will. This can be a work colleague or a solicitor and usually does not have to be a justice of the peace.
- Tell your family members where your Will is kept. This is a simple thing to do, which is often forgotten, and will help avoid a lot of unnecessary searching and stress in the event of your passing. It is recommended that you keep it in a safe or in safe custody with your bank or your lawyer. Try to also save a copy with your personal documents in a well-known place and it is also a good idea to give a copy to your executor.
- It is vital that you choose the right person to be the executor to your Will. Your executor should be someone who you are confident can handle the pressure while dealing with the loss of a loved one, as well as someone who you trust to carry out your exact wishes. It is good to appoint someone who lives close by and is an appropriate age as he or she will be responsible for administration, distribution and carrying out the terms of the Will. Make sure you discuss this role with your chosen executor as it can be very stressful, complicated and time consuming. A high level of diplomacy will be required. For this reason it is often recommended that you appoint a lawyer to be your executor.
- Some people choose to create a trust in order to invest money that can later be distributed to their children or other beneficiary. In order to secure the money for a long period of time it is important to choose the right trustee. This person must be someone who won’t neglect the position and is suitably qualified. This is usually a paid position because the trustee will need to manage and invest money on behalf of the trust.
- Take into account your items that may have little monetary value but have a lot of personal and emotional worth, such as photos, jewellery and heirlooms. In order to steer clear of grief-laden disputes include special bequests for these items in your Will.
- An Enduring Power of Attorney and an Enduring Guardian are also vital documents for beneficiaries. They are equally important preparations to consider while planning your estate. If you become incapacitated the Power of Attorney will legally allow someone else to access and manage your finances as well as anything else set out within the document. Without this your “living” estate can be caught up for years while your family have no legal way to access it.
- Most mistakes and misunderstandings occur when people complete do-it-yourself Will kits. The wording of a Will is not as simple as it looks and for this reason home-drawn Wills can often be misinterpreted. A professionally drawn up Will should not have any ambiguity or cause confusion for your beneficiaries. Try to manage potential conflict regarding your estate by receiving professional advice and by putting contingencies in your Will if you think it may be contested. In the long run the cost of getting your Will written professionally is a lot cheaper than the expense of a court case.
- Be sure to include the type of funeral service you wish to have. This is not only to prevent family disputes but so that your wishes are carried out.
Here at The Quinn Group we have had a lot of experience with drafting, witnessing and executing Wills. We can also help with any other related issues mentioned in this article such as Trusts, Estate Planning and Power of Attorney. For any queries, or for more information click here to submit an online enquiry, or call 1300 QUINNS (1300 784 667) or on +61 2 9223 9166 to make an appointment.