A Will is an essential estate planning tool that sets out your wishes as to how your estate should be handled and distributed after your death. If you die without leaving a valid Will, you run the risk of your assets passing to beneficiaries that you may not want to inherit.
Why should I make a Will?
A Will leaves no doubt as to your intentions of how your estate should be administered after you die. You can clearly indicate your instructions regarding who you want to handle your affairs (your executor) and who you wish to inherit (beneficiaries).
For a relatively small sum, a Will can offer you and your family peace of mind. By making a will, you give yourself the best chance of making sure your assets go where you want them to. If you have family members or other people who are dependent upon you, you should ensure that they will be taken care of by making a Will.
What do I need to include in my Will?
At your appointment, your solicitor will ask for details of your assets and liabilities so that they can be properly dealt with in your Will. You should also consider the following:
- Appointing an executor – who will handle the administration of the estate?
- Who will be your beneficiaries?
- Do you wish to make specific gifts of any of your assets?
- Do you wish to place any restrictions on how your beneficiaries inherit (such as a minimum age requirement)?
Your solicitor will discuss other matters specific to your circumstances with you at the time of your appointment.
What happens if I die without making a Will? If you do not leave a Will, you run the risk of your assets not passing to those people you wish them to, particularly if you wish for your beneficiaries to be friends, charitable organisations, or other persons who are not part of your family.
The Succession Act sets out the eligible persons to inherit from an estate where there is no Will. If you have a spouse, usually all of your assets will pass to them. If you do not have a spouse, the order of eligible relatives is as follows:
- Uncles and aunts
People who are in blended families, who have de facto partners as well as a legal spouse (i.e. you have separated but not divorced and have a new partner) or who have children from different relationships are complex circumstances that follow differing rules.
If you die leaving no Will and no eligible relatives, your estate will pass to the State.
Generally speaking, there is more work involved for your family in finalising your estate if you do not leave a Will. Your family structure must be investigated and disclosed to the Court with supporting documentation supplied, as well as searches for a Will carried out. If you do not leave instructions or detailed records regarding your assets, your family will need to conduct searches to locate them also.
An estate where there is a Will is usually finalised faster than one without, and your executor will not need to go to the extra effort of locating eligible beneficiaries under the law.
Frequently Asked Questions
I have made a Will, but it is stored at another law firm. Can I have it transferred to Joplin Lawyers?
Absolutely! You are free to move your safe custody documents as you like.
I am an executor appointed under a Will. What do I need to do once the Will-maker has passed away?
An executor’s role is to obtain probate (if required), pay any debts of the estate and distribute the assets in accordance with the Will. You should make an appointment to see our estate planning solicitors within 6 months of the Will-maker’s death, as probate should be applied for within that time.
As above, if a Will is located at another law firm, and you wish to engage the services of Joplin Lawyers, you are free to do so.
How often should I update my Will?
Your will should be kept current. If your circumstances change: for example, by having children or separating from a long-term partner, you should update your Will to reflect those changes.
I’ve recently gotten married or divorced. Can this affect my Will?
Yes, it can. You should make an appointment to discuss the effects of marriage and divorce on your Will and consider updating the document.
What other estate planning documents should I have in addition to a Will?
The other important tools in estate planning are:
- Enduring Power of Attorney, which appoints another person to handle your legal and financial affairs during your lifetime and within certain situations;
- Appointment of Enduring Guardian, which appoints another person to make decisions regarding your health and lifestyle when you are unable to do so; and
- Advanced Health Directive, which outlines your wishes regarding end-of-life treatment and your wishes regarding life support.
If you would like to make a new Will, or update your current one, please contact our office to make an appointment. Joplin Lawyers offers discounted packages for singles and couples who also wish to make Powers of Attorney, Appointments of Enduring Guardians and Advanced Health Directives.