You’ve been sensible and arranged your Will, so you feel secure that your final wishes of where your assets with go after your death, and who will organise this have been documented. But when was the last time you reviewed your Will and ensured it reflects your current situation?
Estate planning is not a set-and-forget process; a Will is a living document that requires you to review and update it as your situation in life changes.
Did you know that if you were to pass without a valid Will, state laws known as the ‘Rules of Intestacy’, will govern how your estate will be dealt with?
These rigid rules set out a specific formula of how your assets will be distributed and who will receive them. It's not unusual for there to be cases where assets are distributed to someone you would never have wanted (for example, the parent that left you as a baby and has never been involved in your life).
A properly drafted, update-to-date Will can not only prevent these horror stories, but save time, money, family angst and fighting.
How often should I review my Will?
It is recommended that as a minimum, your will is reviewed annually. You should pick a regular time that suits you, such as the beginning of a new year, a new financial year or an important anniversary to help you remember.
Other times when you should review your Will include:
- A relationship milestone - a new long-term relationship, marriage, separation or divorce
- The birth of children or grandchildren;
- The death or bankruptcy of a beneficiary or executor; or
- A significant change to your financial situation or assets.
Do I really need a lawyer to draft my Will?
While there are ‘do it yourself’ kits available, these are generic templates that may not cover areas unique to you. If these are not completed correctly, it may mean that your Estate is not administered as you intended. Many people don’t know what “rest and residue” means and not including these things can result in the Rules of Intestacy coming into play. As a result, the DIY Will may not reflect your wishes, causing more issues and expense than you could have ever foreseen.
By having a solicitor to draft or update your Will, all the right questions will be asked to ensure that your Will includes everything that you legally require. This process will also address assets that may not automatically be covered by your Will to ensure they are going exactly where you want them to.
Have you thought about these estate planning issues?
- Superannuation and life insurance are not automatically included in your estate and may need to be addressed outside of your Will, so they go to the right people.
- Who will care for your children when you die? By stating who you would like as guardians for your children, you can feel reassured that your wishes will be known.
- How will your mortgages and loans be dealt with – should they go with the asset they are attached to or do you want them to pass debt free?
- Do you own your property as a ‘joint tenant’ or ‘tenant in common’? What will be the effect of the category when you die? If you’re a ‘joint tenant’ your portion of the property will go to the other owner. If you’re a ‘tenant in common’ you will need to outline in your Will what you would like to happen with your portion of the property.
- Who will control the family company or family trust when you die? This information will be in documents forming these entities and should always be reviewed.
- Is there a way of reducing the prospect of your Will being contested? There are things that you may be able to do to reduce this impact.
- What are your preferred funeral arrangements? Burial or cremation? By including these answers in your Will, you can make your wishes known.
The cost of making a Will with a lawyer
Most people think that getting a Will done is an expensive and tedious process, however, this is not the case. In most cases, there will be a simple fixed fee to prepare a Will. If your matters are more complex, there may additional charges, but these will be outlined before work takes place.
Even if you don’t believe you need a Will at all – it’s important not to underestimate your assets. For example, your superannuation is a valuable asset that must be factored into your Will. Remember, the younger you are, quite frequently the higher your superannuation death benefits are.
Get in touch today
Your Will can be one of the most important legal documents you sign. Shine Lawyers’ Wills and Estates Team are experts in preparing legal Wills. Our team are here to listen to your concerns and provide you with sensitive and expert legal advice. Shine Lawyers offer a fixed fee service for the drafting of most Wills. Contact us for a consultation today.
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: February 6, 2020.