If you’re an Australian over the age of 18, then you should consider having a will. You should also consider updating your will when your circumstances change, e.g. get married, divorced, buy a house or have children.
Further updates should be made if your executor or beneficiary dies, or if your financial situation changes significantly.
The benefits of writing a will can include:
It’s important to have an up-to-date will, because if you pass away without one, the law decides who will receive your assets – and this decision may not align with your wishes.
There are two ways to write a will:
N.B. The public trustee is a statutory authority that exists to support people with their wills and other financial needs.
|To include in your will…||Some important things to consider…|
|Personal directions (e.g. funeral arrangements, charity donations)||Superannuation payouts|
|Guardianship of your children||Life insurance payouts|
|Creation of trusts (i.e. split up assets and money for your family)||Distribution of trust deeds|
|Assets you solely hold that you wish to pass on||Assets you hold with someone else, and how these should be handled|
Before you write your will, ask yourself these important questions.
Once again, it’s not mandatory to enlist the help of a solicitor to prepare your will . If going it alone, please ensure your will is:
The witnesses must attest that they witnessed you sign the will and you appeared to be of sound mind, then sign the will themselves. Witnesses cannot be beneficiaries or direct relations.
To find out more information, please contact the public trustee in your state or territory.
An executor is the appointed person entrusted by the deceased to carry out the instructions left in the will. The public trustee statutory authority in your state or territory steps in if there’s no executor or the executor declines his or her duties.
A will and an estate plan are not the same – although they do go hand in hand. An estate plan is a comprehensive plan for your passing, which is inclusive of your will.
In your estate plan, you’ll make a will, walk through your binding nominations for superannuation and insurance proceeds, organise powers of attorney and health directives, and more (you may need a solicitor’s help). As such, you’ll develop a will when you consider estate planning.
ASIC suggests that two chief goals of estate planning are to:2
(a) minimise arguments amongst family members through clear, written directions; and
(b) reduce the tax burden of your beneficiaries.
The shorter answer is technically no but consider having a solicitor or private trutee look over the will you wrote yourself.
Life insurance can be a key part of what you leave behind, however, it’s separate to your will. This product has the potential to pay a cash sum to your beneficiary after your death, or if you’re diagnosed with a terminal illness.
Remember, life insurance payouts to beneficiaries are dictated by what’s detailed in your policy – not the will.
Your life insurance payout will go to the beneficiaries cited on your policy – not your will. Be aware: where there is a conflict or ambiguity between the two documents, your payout may go towards something you didn’t intend (e.g. one party over another).