No one enjoys making out a will. Doing so is a reminder of our own mortality, and of course raises concerns about how your family and friends will fare after we’re gone. However, it’s precisely that concern which makes a will so important. It is vital to properly understand the importance of your will and it's impact and your loved ones.
If you die without a will in Australia, you die “intestate.” This means that the law can determine what happens to your property after your death. Your loved ones could also face legal challenges if you die “testate,” or with a partial will - one which covers some, but not all, of your property, or which hasn’t been signed. As the Law Handbook of Victoria warns:
“While dying without a will won’t, necessarily, mean your assets will go to the Crown, it does complicate matters considerably – and the costs of establishing your rightful beneficiaries would, likely, be taken from your estate, diluting it further. The lesson? Make a will while you can.”
What Are the Benefits of Having a Will?
A will protects your rights and ensures that your wishes are carried out, without legal challenges, so that those you name your beneficiaries receive the assets you want them to have.
Understand the Importance of Your Will: Here are 5 principal benefits of having a will
- You decide who receives your property: this is the reason most people draft a will, and it’s an important one. With a will, you get to decide exactly what, and how much, your named beneficiaries receive, whether these are relatives, friends, or charitable organisations. Without a will, the law will determine how your property is distributed.
- You decide who your executor will be: this is equally important. Without a will, a court will appoint an executor who manages the details of your estate. With a will, you name your executor, someone you trust who cares as much about your property as you do and will ensure that your wishes are carried out.
- You decide how your children will be cared for: if you have minor children, you want to ensure they’re raised by someone you trust. A will enables you to nominate a guardian, or guardians, who will take care of your children after you’re gone. If you die without a will, that decision is made by the court system. You can also name a property manager to take care of any property you leave to minor children, for example, in the form of a trust.
- You decide who will take care of your pets: your pets are part of your family, and you want to know that they’ll be well cared for after you die. With a will, you can name a caretaker for your pet(s)— of course you’ll want to check with that person to make sure he or she is willing to take on this responsibility - and even leave a designated amount of money to pay for your pet’s care.
- You provide reinforcement for a living trust: if you have a living trust, you might assume it covers everything a will covers. In many cases, however, issues like guardianship of minor children or the care of pets aren’t nailed down in a living trust. A will ensures that any gaps in your living trust are effectively covered, and that there will be no confusion.
Is It Important to Update My Will Periodically?
The answer is “yes.” Your life doesn’t end after you make a will change, and sometimes you form new relationships that you will want to recognise in your will. For example, if your spouse dies and you remarry, it’s important to decide how you want your new spouse to be taken care of after your death. You should update your will after any pivotal life event after you initially create it.
It’s normal to procrastinate when you have unpleasant tasks to perform it’s never a good idea, and it’s an especially bad idea when you might not have the opportunity to take care of those issues later. The older you are, the more important it is to draft your will at the earliest possible time. It’s your way of ensuring that those most important to you continue to benefit from all that you’ve achieved throughout your lifetime.