Almost half of all Australians don’t have a will.  This is a big concern as it could leave many families and loved ones exposed to the stresses of managing a deceased estate without direction and not as effectively as possible.  Having a will is always better than not having one, however there are some common mistakes that you should be aware of that could make your will invalid.  Here are some tips of mistakes not to make in drawing up your will.

Tip 1: Is your will up to date and current?

Times change, relationships change, circumstances change.  A will that you wrote 7 years ago as a happy married person with no children isn’t going to be appropriate for you now when you’re divorced with 2 children.  You should update your will at least every 2 years to ensure that it stays up to date.  You should also update your will whenever there is a major family event such as a birth, death or a marriage.  A great way to help you remember to update your will regularly is to keep it with your tax receipts so that when you do your tax every year you will jog your memory to think about your will at the same time.

Tip 2: Has your Will been appropriately witnessed?

If a will has not been signed or witnessed properly it can be rendered invalid.  Each state in Australia has slightly different rules about how wills need be signed and witnessed but as a general rule wills require 2 adult witnesses who are NOT potential beneficiaries or executors.

Tip 3: Is your Will in a place where it can be easily found?

If you passed away today, would your loved ones know where to find your will?  Make sure that you tell your family members where your will is located so that they are able to find it easily in the event of your death.  A will is no good to anybody if no one is able to find it!  Ideally, you should have several copies of your will in case any are lost or damaged.  The original should be stored in a secure place such as in a safe deposit box or with your lawyer.  You may also like to consider giving a copy to your chosen executor, your financial planner, and your accountant.
Tip 4: Have you included sentimental items in your will?

Make sure when you’re writing your will that you include specific instructions for items which may not necessarily have monetary value, but have sentimental value to your loved ones.  Often it is personal items such as photographs, jewellery and family heirlooms which cause the most strife in families where specific bequeasts have not been made.  To avoid family squabble, you should make a list of all your sentimental items and write specific bequeasts about to whom those tiems should be given.  Alternatively you can give provision in the will for beneficiaries to be able to choose between alternate items.
Tip 5: Is your chosen Executor appropriate?

Many people appoint Executors of their Will who are not suitable for the job.  When selecting someone for the role of Executor, you need to make sure that that person is someone who is responsible, trustworthy, and physically able to fulfill the role.  You need to consider things such as age and geographic location (e.g. an executor who lives overseas will find it difficult to fulfill their duties).  If you have someone in mind for the role, you should discuss it with them in advance to ensure that their happy to your Executor.  In addition you may like to consider appointing an independent person such as your lawyer to be a co-executor.

Tip 6: Should you use Do It Yourself DIY Will Kits?

Using a Do It Yourself DIY will kit is one of the most popular methods of writing a will in Australia.  However, unless your situation is very straightforward you should be aware that there are risks involved in writing your own will.  Often the wording of home-made wills can lend themselves to misinterpretation.  Many court cases about wills arise where people have used a DIY Will Kit and there is ambiguity.  The advantages of getting a will drawn up professionally is that you can limit the risk of the will containing anything which can be misconstrued and reduce the risk of someone contesting it.  Of course, having your will drawn up professionally is more costly but this cost would be small in comparison to the possible future cost of a court case.
Tip 7: Have you made your final wishes known?

Another issue which is a common source of family dispute are funeral arrangements.  If you have specific wishes about whether you want to be buried or cremated, or what type of service you want etc. then you should specify these in your will.  This avoids any family conflict by clearly stating your wishes.  In addition, if you would to be an organ donor, be sure to register on the Organ Donor Registry and discuss your wishes with your family.

Get more information from a financial planner

For more information about arranging or updating your will, or for a referral to a professional who can assist you in drawing up your will, be sure to speak to a Sydney Financial Planner at Financial Spectrum who can assist you.

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