Top 10 Most Important Reasons to have a Will
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It is estimated that half of Australia’s adult population does not have a Will despite it being one of the most important documents we will prepare in our lifetimes. Why is it so important to have a will? Here are the top ten reasons:
1. Decide who will manage your estate
By leaving a valid Will, you will be able to have a say in who will manage your estate to ensure your testamentary wishes are carried into effect. The person who will manage your estate is referred to as an ‘executor’ and can be any person (or people) whom you deem responsible to manage your affairs. Usually this is a spouse, adult children or sibling but may also be a trusted friend who has legal or financial experience (although not essential)
2. Ease the burden on your family and friends
When you pass away, you will leave behind material possessions, intangible assets and the family and friends who will receive them. By not having a Will in place at the time of your death, you die intestate (without a will). Where you die intestate, the distribution of your assets are subject to the rules of intestacy and may mean persons you do not intend to benefit from your estate receive benefit or the persons you do want benefit from your estate do not receive adequate provision. Dying intestate can also be a time-consuming and costly exercise for your family who will need to turn to the court to have your estate sorted out. This can be a contentious and unpleasant experience.
3. Determine what happens to your estate
One of the key objectives of a Will is to direct your executor to distribute your assets the way you have intended. In the Will, you can lay out exactly what you want to happen to your property, money and personal belongings and unless you have neglected to provide for a person or people who would ordinarily expect to benefit from your estate, these wishes should be followed exactly.
4. Provide instructions for your funeral
Do you want to be buried, cremated or even have your remains turned into a diamond? Your Will is one way you can make it known what you would like done with your body following your death. If you have special instructions for your funeral such as a choice of church or crematorium, type of coffin, or particular music you would like played, you can also leave these instructions for your loved ones in your Will.
It is important to note that these directions are not legally binding and outlandish requests (such as having your ashes scattered in particular places) may not be fulfilled.
5. Minimise the risk of family disputes
Dying intestate fosters an environment of speculation and anything you had previously said or alluded to can be interpreted (or misinterpreted). This scenario has the potential to cause disputes within your family. Leaving a Will gives you the opportunity to explicitly state your wishes so there is no room for ambiguity.
6. Ensure your children are well looked after
If you have children, your Will is the document in which you will express who you would like to look after your children if you die. Generally speaking, if the other parent survives you they will get sole custody, however, in circumstances where the other parent is unable to care for the children, you may wish to nominate another guardian. If you do not nominate a guardian, the court will choose one for you and it may not be a person you would have chosen had you left a Will.
Similarly, you can use a Will to nominate new owners for any pets you would leave behind if you passed away and you can even leave funds to the nominated owner to ensure your pet is taken care of to your standard.
7. Provide instructions for dealing with your online presence
Most of us have some kind of online account, whether it’s social media accounts, a website or just an email address. You may leave instructions in your Will about how you would like these dealt with. If any of your accounts have particular financial or sentimental value, you may even wish to bequeath them to a particular person.
8. Make your intentions clear
You may have family or friends who will assume they are automatically entitled to part of your estate. Your Will gives you the opportunity to make your intentions clear and provides an opportune time to leave out estranged family members or settle debts someone may have with you. For example, if you loaned one child funds for a property purchase that they have not repaid to you, you can stipulate this loan must be repaid to the estate or that their siblings receive more from the estate in lieu of the loan.
9. Leave behind a legacy
Charities are able to benefit from estates. If there is a cause that is meaningful to you, you may make a bequest either as a lump sum or in the form of a trust, which can make ongoing donations to the organisation for a period of your choosing.
10. Remove stress from your own life
Living through a pandemic made many people acutely aware that life is short and can change in an instant. Having an up-to-date Will is one way to remove some of the stress when thinking about your family and what they might do if you were gone. Having a Will prepared is easier than you might think. A solicitor can draft the formal document, so all you need to do is discuss your wishes with them.
If you are thinking about preparing a Will or updating a current one, please contact one of our experienced Wills & Estates Lawyers on (07) 4052 0761.