By Grindal Legal Principal Lawyer, Christine Crupi
For those of you who have been wondering whether you need a Will, this guide will assist by helping you to determine whether your unique set of circumstances means that you should consider having a Will prepared. Anyone over the age of eighteen is eligible to have a Will so, whether its factors such as property or children, now might be the right time to look into the benefits of having a Will.
So, why do I need a Will?
Put simply (and bluntly), a Will sets out how your assets are to be distributed on your death. Contrary to popular belief, Wills are not just for those in or nearing retirement. Having a Will can be just as relevant to a young professional with a superannuation balance or a couple with children and a mortgage as it is to a retiree with a significant investment portfolio. We all have a unique set of ‘life circumstances’ and each of these can be catered for. Having a Will in place when you die means that you have a say in the following decisions:
Who will benefit from your estate and how your assets are distributed.
Who will manage and make final decisions about your estate.
Who will act as guardians of your minor children.
Who will act in a position of control of your family trust or company.
The absence of a Will could mean that your estate may take longer to settle and the costs to finalise your estate may be higher, therefore impacting any distributions you may wish to make to loved ones.
Allocating and dividing wealth may be the central focus of your Will but, as highlighted above, these documents go beyond this to assist you in decision making and dealing with any issues of control. Importantly, Wills can also specify your preferred funeral arrangements and nominate who takes possession of family heirlooms and sentimental items. Even the instructions for the care of your pet can be included!
If I don’t own much, do I still need a Will?
Often people think that they don’t own enough assets to make it worthwhile having a Will prepared. Whilst this may be the case for some, it would be a minority of people who would fit into this category. To assist you in identifying whether it would be beneficial to have a Will, please consider how you would respond to the following questions:
Do you have minor children?
Do you own real estate, such as your family home (even if mortgaged)?
Do you have superannuation entitlements?
Do you hold a controlling role in a family trust (as an Appointor or Trustee)?
Have you loaned a child money and need this to equalised amongst your other children on death?
Do you have a blended family structure and need to account for children/ step children and a second spouse?
Have you recently become separated or divorced?
Do you have a child with special needs, or a child who may need some asset protection strategies in place to deal with a possible future matrimonial dispute or bankruptcy?
If you answered yes to any one or more of the above questions, you should strongly consider having a Will prepared. Your Will can address each of the above matters and ensure that your assets pass to those you intend and in the proportions in which you nominate. A Will also allows you to nominate those who will succeed you in any controlling role you may have in a trust or company structure. Furthermore, a testamentary trust Will can also include asset protection mechanisms for vulnerable beneficiaries to ensure that they are well-looked after.
Time is of the essence
Wills are intended to be a roadmap left behind for loved ones to use as a guide on what to do next. Whether you’re a parent of minor children, recently divorced or the owner of property or shares, having a Will in place can provide you with security and peace of mind. As we all know, life can be unexpected; we can be hit with curveballs that we don’t see coming. Don’t wait until that curveball arrives before embarking on your will-making journey; it can be much more simple and rewarding than you think.
Disclaimer: This article does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. It is intended only to provide a summary and general overview on matters of interest and it is not intended to be comprehensive. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.