If you haven’t created a will yet, you’re not alone. According to research Owen Hodge Lawyers undertook last year, nine out of 10 Australians believe having a will is important, yet four out of 10 still don’t have one.
Why is a will so important?
One of the most important promises we can make to ourselves is to take all the precautions available to us to protect our spouses and children, extended family members, and those who rely on us for financial support. To properly ensure the financial security of all those we love, it is important to put a new will in place, or to engage in the process of updating a current will, with our immediate circumstances.
What happens to your assets if you don’t have a will in place?
Even if you do not have children, it is important for spouses to designate how they would like their estate to be disbursed upon the death of one or the other. While some people believe that if their spouse passes away without a will, they will naturally inherit the entirety of their shared estate, this is not legally true. Instead, the estate of the intestate person (the person who dies without leaving a will) will be distributed in accordance with the laws of intestacy.
Therefore, some of the estate could be delivered to persons other than the surviving spouse, including biological children, adopted children, surviving parents, siblings and other people who might have been financially dependent upon the deceased. Therefore, if you and your spouse want to have full control over how your assets are disbursed to your surviving spouse, it is necessary to do so via a valid will.
What should you include in your will?
Your will should cover all of your assets such as:
- Real estate
- Personal property like family heirlooms
- Bank accounts
- Investments and interests in businesses or companies
Your will should account for how these assets are to be distributed to your spouse, family, friends, charities or other beneficiaries.
In your will you can also set out your wishes for the care of your children, as well as those for your funeral and burial.
Often unknown to many people is that your superannuation funds and life insurance policies frequently fall outside of the intentions set out in your will. In fact, many funds have their own rules about how these valuable assets pass on to others, so make sure you investigate these separately.
Finally, don’t forget to include your logins and passwords for your accounts, memberships and digital and/or social media profiles so that your executor can cancel or transfer those services.
When should your will be updated?
Once you have a will in place, it is important to review it regularly. There are several life events that should trigger a review, such as:
- If you marry
- If you divorce
- If you have children
- When your children turn 18 years of age
- If you purchase a new real property
- If there is a change in health circumstances
- If there is an acquisition of additional assets, for example a new business or new investment account
- If you sell or lose an asset
- Upon retirement
- If any of your beneficiaries have a disability
- If your beneficiaries pass away
Whether you’re creating or updating a will, it’s important to contact a solicitor who specialises in estate planning to ensure you and your family are protected. They will ensure your will is sound and less vulnerable to being contested, while guiding you on what to include.
The information on this website is for general information only and are not (and nor are they intended to be) a substitute for professional medical or mental health advice, nor is it used for diagnosis and treatment. You, or anyone you are concerned about, are encouraged to seek professional medical or mental health advice and treatment from suitably qualified medical and clinical practitioners and providers.
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