How to make a will
There are many good reasons for making a will. A will records who you (the "testator") wish to benefit from your estate (that is, your assets). You can provide for people - such as friends - who would not be entitled to anything from your estate if you died without a will.
If you die without a will (called dying "intestate"), the law dictates who will receive your assets after you die: see How to deal with a relative dying without a will.
The most important things to provide for in your will are who will be your executors, and who will be the beneficiaries of your assets.
In making your will, you should consider any future children you may have, and provide for them in your will. You should also consider how you would like your property to be distributed should your spouse or partner die at the same time as you.
It is also possible in a will to forgive any debts owed to you.
Aside from these matters, wills commonly provide for such things as:
You should consider who you want to be the executor of your will (the person that your will appoints to manage and distribute your estate). The executors will be in charge of carrying out your wishes, so they should be responsible and trustworthy.
It is preferable that you appoint two people to be executors, in case one of them dies before you do.
To be legally valid, a will must be:
The two witnesses should preferably be at least 20 years old.
Witnesses cannot be beneficiaries under the will, and nor can the spouse or civil union or de facto partner of a witness. If they are beneficiaries, this does not make the will invalid, but they are not entitled to receive anything under the will.
The will need not be drafted by a lawyer. Printed forms for drawing up your own will are available from major stationery stores.
However, the cost of getting a lawyer to draw up your will are relatively small. Further, if the will is relatively straightforward, some law firms may not charge for this service. In any event, even a small charge would be cheap compared to the problems that can arise if a will is badly drafted and therefore unclear, or if the will is invalid because it has not been signed and witnessed properly.
A will must be in writing: a spoken will is not binding. However, if you promise to provide for someone in your will in return for services that he or she has performed for you (for example, looking after you while you were sick), that person may bring a claim against your estate under the LAW REFORM TESTAMENTARY (PROMISES) ACT 1949. For more details, see How to contest a will.
Yes, you can do this either by making a new will or by adding a "codicil" (an amendment) to the will: see How to change a will.
Assuming your will can't be challenged as being legally invalid (that is, it was properly witnessed and so on), it may still be able to be challenged after your death by:
These are explained in detail in How to contest a will.
If you are concerned about whether your children will benefit under your will if you leave everything to your spouse, you can establish a family trust in your will to ensure that your children's needs will be met (see How to establish a trust).
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