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Understanding the importance of having a will

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Not many people realise or appreciate the importance of having a will, especially if they feel that they have nothing to bequeath their loved ones. But even if there is only that one property that you own, it can be a source of dissension within the family if there is no will written pertaining to it.

There will always be a question of:

  • Who should be its sole owner?
  • Should it be liquidated and then properly divided among family members?
  • How will the estate be divided between spouse and children?
  • What happens if there are stepchildren or half-siblings?

These questions and more are just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. This is because a lot of things could arise after your passing, and your will can help provide solutions for possible problems before they happen.

Photo by Linda Hartley | Flickr
Photo by Linda Hartley | Flickr

But what is a will exactly?

It is a written document that outlines what you want to happen to your property or estate after you die.

According to the online wills service, Willed, “a will is a legally binding document which spells out your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets and the care of any of your minor children and pets. Think of it as a list of instructions to be given to the person or organisation that will distribute your estate.

Anyone can make a will, provided that they are over 18 years old, and have the mental capacity to understand what they’re doing. Anyone under 18 can only make a will if they’re married or have a court order that gives them the authority to make a will. The rules, however, vary from one state to another. It is highly recommended that you verify with experts or with a company specialising in probate law.

What if you die without a will or it was not validated?

Apart from possible arguments and conflicts surviving relatives would have to face, there is a possibility that the law will decide who gets your assets. Again, this depends on the rules within a particular state. In Victoria, for example, the law will make the decision on your behalf and it is applied to everyone. In New South Wales, on the other hand, if you die intestate, a predetermined formula will be used in dividing your assets, which could cause an unnecessary financial burden on your loved ones.

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What are the requirements for making a will?

For the will to be considered valid, it has to meet specific requirements. The rules may vary from one state to another, but the most common are:

  • You have to be of legal age, which could be 18 or 21 depending on the state
  • You have to be of sound mind
  • The will should be written down
  • It must be willingly signed in front of witnesses, to avoid questions of whether or not you were coerced into signing it
  • It must include a statement confirming that your will is properly executed and signed at a particular date and place

If any of the requirements above are not met, your will is considered invalid.

Do I need a lawyer to write a will?

These days, you can easily download or buy a DIY will kit, but a lot of experts strongly advise against preparing your own will. This is because the precise wording of a will is specialised and must conform to strict legal requirements. So seek professional advice and help. Doing so is also one way to ensure there is little reason to contest your will.

Leave a will when your will to live is over - Photo by Rachel Kramer | Flickr
Photo by Rachel Kramer | Flickr

Why is having a will important?

Having a will is crucial because it ensures that your wishes are honoured and your loved ones are taken care of after your passing. It can prevent disputes among family members, provide clear instructions on asset distribution, and appoint guardians for minor children. Additionally, a well-drafted will can minimize the legal and financial burden on your loved ones during an already difficult time.

How often should you update your will?

It is important to review and update your will regularly, especially after major life events such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or the acquisition of significant assets. Regular updates ensure that your will accurately reflects your current wishes and circumstances, providing peace of mind that your estate will be handled according to your desires.

Did you find this article useful? Do you have some ideas of your own that you can share with our readers? Share your experience by leaving a comment below.

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