How and why you should prepare your will

Having an up-to-date will ensures that your wishes for your financial assets will be carried out after you pass away. It can also help your loved ones avoid getting involved in distressing legal disputes about your estate.

Why should I make a will?

If you don’t make a legal will, your estate will be distributed according to government rules. But with a valid will in place, you can decide how to divide your assets between your family, friends and charities. You can also appoint an executor of your choice, putting the administration of your estate in trusted hands.

What does the executor do?

Under the will, an executor is appointed who will look after your estate. The duties of your executor can include:

  • Locating your will
  • Collecting all your assets
  • Arranging to pay all your debts
  • Locating the beneficiaries named in your will
  • Distributing your estate
  • Preparing tax returns
  • Dealing with any court matters
  • Maintaining accurate records of the administration of your estate

How should you choose an executor?

Choosing the executor of your will is a very important decision. When deciding who to name as your executor, you need to consider whether they have the necessary skills, and are willing and able to administer your estate.

Also keep in mind that your executor could be personally responsible if something goes wrong with the administration of your estate. For example, if your executor forgot to insure an asset of your estate like your house, and the asset was damaged, they may be ordered to compensate your beneficiaries for the loss out of their own pocket.

Remember that naming a friend or family member as executor could place an extra burden on them at a time of grief and loss, and consider whether your choice of executor could cause conflict between them and your beneficiaries. If this is the case, you can choose to appoint an independent executor.1

What can you include in your will?

Your estate can consist of things such as property, cars, or other financially significant objects, but also small items that might hold sentimental value such as photographs or ornaments. A will can also serve to declare your wish to become the guardian for any minor children or dependents.

What are the requirements for creating a will?

Getting advice from a lawyer when preparing your will can help you make sure you meet all the legal requirements. The requirements vary from state to state, but in all Australian states and territories you must:

  • Be over 18 years old and understand what you are doing.
  • Put your specific wishes in writing – telling someone what you would like to happen is not enough.
  • Sign the will in the presence of two witnesses who are not beneficiaries under the will
  • Without a will you cannot control who inherits your assets. Australian Seniors has put together a free self-help will kit which is a simple and effective way to bring peace of mind to your loved ones without the cost of seeing a solicitor.