Even though a Will is probably one of the most important documents you will ever sign, current statistics show that almost one in two Australians do not have a valid Will.
A will is a legal document and it is a statement of your wishes that are to be executed when you pass away. Having a Will gives you the comfort of knowing that the rewards of your life’s work will be distributed and managed according to your wishes. When you write a Will, you appoint an executor who will oversee the process of distributing your estate in line with your wishes.
The assets you leave behind can hold both financial and sentimental value, and you may want specific items to be inherited by a certain family member or friend. Because a Will allows you to list individual people and assets, there is the opportunity for you to allocate an inheritance to children from previous relationships, as well as to friends and charities.
There is also room in a Will to exclude family members who you do not want to have access to your assets. It should, however, be noted that the law does protect certain people who have been dependent on you from disinheritance. In such situations, a claim can be made under the Testator’s Family Maintenance Act. TFM claims are limited to the following people: your surviving spouse or de facto; your children (including ex-nuptial, adopted and stepchildren); your parents (if you die without a spouse or children); and a divorced spouse who is receiving or entitled to receive maintenance from you at the date of your death. If your will involves the prospect of diminished inheritance for any of these people you should seek further advice in its preparation.
Looking after your loved ones
A Will can automatically become invalid if you get a divorce or if it is not signed or witnessed properly. It is also important that you update the document when there are births, deaths, marriages, and divorces in the family. You must avoid mistakes when you are writing a Will and it is recommended that you update your Will every five years or when there is a major change to your family.
According to the NSW Government, 55% of Australians have a valid Will. Of the remaining 45%, some have no Will at all and others have a Will that is not up to date.
In the event you die intestate – that is, without a Will – assets are divided between family members according to the law; you will have no say in the distribution of those possessions.
In the hands of the state, the allocation of your assets may become a lengthy and distressing process for family and friends during a time of grief. And if you are separated or divorced from your partner and/or you have children from previous relationships, the allocation of assets can become complicated and some family members may be prioritised over others. It would be a shame for sentimental effects to not end up in the care of the person to whom they would matter most.
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