A will is a formal document that expresses what you’ve decided to have happen with your property when you die.
If you don’t make a will then you will die “intestate” which means that your property will be distributed according to a state law governing such matters, and that may not be a distribution that reflects your true wishes.
A will must be written in such a way as to make your intentions clear and there are certain requirements, such as having two independent witnesses sign the document, that are necessary to make your will valid.
The solicitor who drafts your will needs some important information such as;
1. What is the full legal name and address of the testator (which is you)?
2. Who do you wish to appoint as your executor/s? An executor is a person you appoint to make sure that your wishes, as contained in the will, are carried out. They must be someone who is over the age of 18 years. Remember that you should update your will if your executor dies before you. It is a good idea to appoint a trusted person who is younger than you for that reason. If there is no one you wish to appoint as executor, you could appoint the Public Trustee. However, there will be fees and charges which would be charged to your estate.
3. What can I put in my will? You can leave gifts of money and assets to individuals or groups (such as your children or charitable organisations). You can make a specific gift of money. You can leave someone your real estate. You can also appoint someone to act as a trustee to care for your children who are not yet 18 to provide for their education etc. However, the family law act provisions about the “best interests” of children may override any appointment of day-to-day care and responsibility for children.
There are many other matters that can be included in wills such as funeral arrangements and the like. You need to talk to your solicitor about these matters.
Your will can be changed at any time by revoking the existing will and entering into a new will, so long as the new will is drafted and signed and witnessed according to law. Your solicitor will keep the original document in “safe custody” where you can access it at any time you need to free of charge.
Please note that a marriage negates a previous will. That is, if you make a will today and get married in the future, your will is invalid and will have to be updated.
Please also note that superannuation and some insurance policies can operate outside a will. Talk to your solicitor about these items of property.