Your Will is one of the most important legal documents you can prepare. It reduces the likelihood of arguments developing amongst the family and in addition to dealing with your property, you can record a number of other wishes in your Will such as whether you wish to donate body parts, any specific wishes you have around the disposal of your body and any special arrangements you would like to see implemented at your funeral.
The consequences of not having a Will can be serious. For example, arguments can develop over who should be legally entitled to wind up your affairs for you; there can be disputes around who is entitled to what from your estate and even questions around your burial or cremation can lead to significant issues between your family members.
The key legal requirements for a valid Will are that it must be in writing and it must be witnessed by two adults who are both present and witness your signature as well as each others. The first key component for your Will are your trustees. These people attend to practical issues such as closing bank accounts, selling property and distributing assets in accordance with your wishes. While you can have as many trustees as you like, for practical reasons, we recommend that you have two trustees who live locally. Of course, as the name implies, trustees are people who you trust so they are usually close family members or friends but lawyers, accountants and trustee companies sometimes act in this role as well.
The most obvious issue to deal with in your Will is to whom do you leave your property? While this sounds easy, it is possible for children and others to contest your Will if they feel they have been unfairly treated so this should always be kept in mind. If you are thinking about leaving one or more of your children out of your Will, this will increase the chances of them taking legal action to try to overturn it.
You should review your Will on a regular basis and in particular, at any time when any major changes occur in your life. For example, if you get married, any previous Will you have is automatically cancelled. However, if you divorce, any Will made during your marriage remains valid. We recommend you review your Will every five years or so.
Finally, Wills are just one important document in amongst a number of other legal documents that you should consider as a package. Other documents you should think about include Enduring Powers of Attorney and Family Trusts.
While anyone is entitled to prepare your Will and you can use do-it-yourself kits, because Wills are so important it is highly recommended you seek professional help when preparing your Will.