It is important for everyone over the age of 18 to have a Will in place to make sure that their wishes are followed and their assets distributed as they would want in the event of their death.
If you don’t have a Will, your assets will be divided according to how the law dictates in the rules of intestacy, that is, when you have not made a Will. If you die intestate it is possible that your estate, which comprises all of your assets, might be distributed in a way that you would not have wanted.
Your Will is also the document where you indicate your wishes with respect to other important matters, such as who you would like to manage your affairs after your death, the care of underage children or dependents, and your wishes relating to your burial or cremation.
Making a Will shows a level of care in not wanting to give loved ones any more stress to deal with than they will already face when you pass away. In many ways it is one of the most selfless things you can do.
Regularly review your Will
Preparing a Will is not a once-off event. It is sensible to review your Will regularly, and we suggest that this be done a minimum of every three to five years.
Changes in your life may create problems for others in interpreting your wishes in any Will you have already made and may undo all the good work you have done to protect those close to you by making one. It can make your Will ineffective or even invalid.
It could be that a Will made many years ago is still appropriate, just as it may be that a recently made Will is now out of date.
Ideally you should review your Will annually, along with other annual events, such as lodging your taxation returns. It is likely that your needs and circumstances will change many times in the course of your life and with those changes it is prudent to consider your Will.
Healthy Will checklist
There are a number of life events that can impact on your Will and which mean you need to revisit and update it.
Here is a checklist of life changes which can impact on the validity of your Will and which you need to consider in examining the legal health of your existing Will.
- Have you married? Or separated from your partner?
- Have you had any children?
- Is the person you named as executor, to carry out the wishes in your Will, still alive and well enough to do the job?
- Have the circumstances of any beneficiaries changed to make you reconsider your wishes, or have any of them died?
- Have you nominated any specific gifts that are no longer valid or don’t exist, for example, have you sold a property that you had left to someone in the Will?
- Have you acquired any new assets that you would want to make specific plans for in your Will?
At the same time as you check the health of your Will, you need to check your super and life insurance, which is often now a part of your super policy.
Many people assume their superannuation will be divided up in accordance with the wishes in their Will, but that is not necessarily the case. You need to look at your super policy to check how you have nominated that your super should be allocated, and that it is still allocated in the way you want.
At the same time, check the division of any life insurance you have in your policy, and update it if necessary.
If you own real property as a sole proprietor, in the event of your death that property will be distributed in accordance with your Will. If you own real property along with another person, it is important to consider the manner of ownership, which will allow you to determine how the property will be dealt with in the event of your death.
If you own property as a Joint Proprietor with another person, the rule of ‘Survivorship’ applies. That is, ownership of that property will automatically pass to the ‘surviving proprietor’, being the other person who owns the property as a joint proprietor on title.
You may however, own property along with another person, as a Tenant In Common. If you own property as a Tenant In Common, your share of ownership in that property will be distributed in accordance with any Will that you have in place.
The important thing is to consider your circumstances at every major personal milestone in your life. Your Will is a document that should be updated frequently as life changes might mean that your Will no longer accurately represents your wishes.