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Planning for Your Future – the Importance of Having a Valid Will

Having a clear, legally valid and up-to-date Will is the best way to help ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.

So why do so many Australians seem to put off preparing their Will or try to do it themselves?

The law around Wills can be complex and when you prepare your own Will, you run a real risk of making mistakes, preparing or executing it incorrectly or not expressing your intentions clearly enough.  A homemade Will is also more likely to be contested, which means that the whole process could end up in Court.

Alternatively, if you die without a valid Will, your estate will most likely be divided in accordance with a legislative formula, which may not reflect your wishes and cause undue hardship, cost and delay for your family. 

So what is a Will?

A Will is a written document that sets out who will receive your assets when you die.  You may wish to gift certain items to a dear friend or family member, or leave a bequest to your favourite charity.

A Will can also be used to appoint a legal guardian for your children if they are minors and to establish a trust for them until they come of age.

You can also use your Will to make provisions for beloved pets.

What makes a Will valid?

In order for a Will to be valid, it must be signed by you and witnessed by two people, who are not beneficiaries under your Will.

When you make a Will you will also need to appoint an executor and trustee, who will look after your affairs when you die.

An executor’s role is to obtain Probate, pay any debts, and distribute your assets in accordance with your Will. 

A trustee administers any trusts set up in the Will, usually in relation to any minor or disabled beneficiaries. 

Your executor and trustee can be the same person, or you can nominate different people for these roles.  You can also nominate more than one person, but appointing more than two people can sometimes make the administration of your estate more complicated.

You should appoint someone that you know well and trust.  You should discuss the appointment with them to ensure that they are comfortable to take on the responsibility that you are giving them.

Can I change my Will?

You are able to change your Will at any time provided you have mental capacity. 

It is always recommended to review your Will if there are any significant changes to your personal circumstances - if you marry or divorce or if your executor or any of your beneficiaries die.

It is important to note that you cannot make changes to your Will simply by crossing things out or by adding in additional clauses.  The only way to update or make changes to your Will is by a Codicil or by executing a new Will. 

A Codicil is a written document added to a Will, which must meet all the formal requirements of a Will.  In most cases it may be easier to make an entirely new Will.

Marriage will generally revoke a Will.  Divorce will cancel any gift you make to your former spouse under your Will.

How can we assist you with your estate planning needs?

For many reasons, it is very important that you have a Will and that your Will is drafted by someone who understands the law and can provide the best possible advice to ensure your assets end up where you want them to go and that your family is looked after. 

At Karen L Haga and Associates, we can assist you with all your estate planning needs, including:

  • Ensuring that your Will is valid and is drafted and executed correctly.
  • Advising you on how to provide for your spouse or de facto partner, children or other dependents.
  • Advising you about your rights and obligations to former partners or estranged family members.
  • Ensuring that the Will expresses your wishes in a clear and concise manner, so nothing is left to chance.
  • Give you a thorough understanding of the role of your executor and trustee.
  • Provide a complimentary service to hold your original Will in our secure deed safe.

For more information on Wills please contact us and make a time to see one of our solicitors.