Do you have a Will? A recent study indicates that almost one in two Australians do not. And if you don’t, it’s a document you should consider putting in place, considering its importance.
A Will allows you to plan for your future, and a valid Will is the only reliable way to ensure that your assets, liabilities and possessions (i.e. estate) are dealt with in accordance with your wishes. A Will is an official legal document that identifies the people or organisations (known as beneficiaries) that are going to receive your property when you pass away, and who you have chosen to be responsible with ensuring your wishes are carried out in accordance with your Will (known as the executor/s). This has several important benefits, including:
- Ensuring your family know your final wishes;
- Avoiding conflict (and potential legal proceedings) amongst family members in relation to the distribution of your property;
- Providing for your children or dependants in the future; and
- Allowing you to leave specific gifts to certain individuals in your life.
However, a Will has very strict requirements that it must adhere to under the Succession Act. This includes that the Will is:
- In writing;
- Signed by the person making it;
- Dated at the time it is signed; and
- Witnessed by two other people over the age of 18.
It is important that all the requirements of a Will are met and that all the terms in the Will are clear and unambiguous. If not, problems may arise which might challenge the validity of the Will, but also cause unnecessary expense, stress and hardship on the family and beneficiaries. Additionally, if a Will is found invalid by the Court, and there is no prior valid Will, the maker will be deemed to have died ‘intestate’. This means that the estate will be distributed by the Public Trustee in accordance with the intestacy laws under the Succession Act 1981 (Qld), and not in accordance with the will-maker’s intended wishes.
If you have a Will and a change in circumstances occur (i.e. the birth of a child or grandchild, divorce or remarriage) you are able to change your Will to adapt it to your new individual circumstances.
If any of these circumstances apply to you, it may be time to draft a Will or revise your current one – especially since a Will is likely one of the most important documents you’ll ever sign.
Making or revising a Will does not need to be expensive, however, it must be done correctly. A lawyer can help, and by speaking to BELAW about your estate needs, you are providing yourself and your family with peace of mind knowing your future wishes will be properly taken care of.
It is important to note that with the recent marriage equality postal survey, you do not have to be married to your partner to leave your assets to them. This means that same sex couples can make a valid Will regardless of the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth).
Everyone’s individual circumstances, and wishes, are different. Contact BELAW for tailored advice on making, or changing, your Will.