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Your will is one of the most important documents you will ever sign. It is not something to put off doing, and not something you can do once, then forget.
When to Review your Will
Changes in your financial circumstances, and relationships, can impact upon what your will should say, and of course, if you, or your children have another child, your will should be reviewed. It may not need changing, but significant life events should always be followed by a review of your will.
- Remarriage automatically cancels an existing will.
- Divorce automatically excludes your former spouse from your will.
Note that witnesses or their spouses are prohibited from taking a benefit under the will - this is a critical error that can lead to the person you most want to receive a benefit getting nothing.
You should also decide:
- Who do you want to be the person who handles the transfer of your assets to your beneficiaries (the executor)
- Who do you want to be the person who looks after money or assets until it is paid to the beneficiaries (the trustee - can be same person as executor)
- Who are your backup executors and trustees in case your first choice does not survive you?
- Who are your backup beneficiaries in case they do not survive you?
More Complex Issues to Consider
Wills are, of course, your last step in ensuring that the property you have worked a lifetime to accumulate passes to your family and friends in accordance with your wishes. Sometimes, however, this simple desire is not at all simple to achieve.
Examples of Problem issues with respect to Wills:
- You have a family business, and
- you want to ensure that it continues to operate
- perhaps, not all of your children are interested in participating in the business
- perhaps your children do not co-operate well enough to give the business to them all jointly
- You You have a family trust, and you want the assets owned by the trust to go to your children when you die (BEWARE - this is NOT automatic)
- You have substantial assets, and:
- You want to ensure that your children will not pay too much tax when they get their inheritance
- You want to set up a trust for your children and grandchildren with funds from your estate
- You want one (or all) of your children to benefit from your estate, but dont want to give them the money directly
- Some or all of your beneficiaries have problems with creditors, and you dont want your inheritance to go to creditors
- You have assets or life insurance held in a superannuation fund
- You want to reward one of your children for their special care for you, or because of their special needs, and you are concerned that the other children may be upset by this
- You have remarried, or entered into a new relationship and have children to both marriages
- You are concerned that a former spouse (particularly where you have not divorced) may seek to claim upon your estate
- You have lent money to (or borrowed from) one or more of your children and you want this resolved in your will
- You own a house jointly with another person, but do not want that person to get your share of the house when you die
- Many many more.
When your will is prepared, these issues need to be considered. All of the above problems arise in ordinary families. All can be resolved - provided that they are properly considered, and steps taken when your will is prepared. Note that some problems also require changes to other documents - such as existing trust deeds, or Binding Death Benefit Beneficiary Nominations (Superannuation) as well as provisions within the will itself.
Without proper legal advice, there are too many opportunities for you to make a mistake that will have a catastrophic effect upon your family after you die.
When you consult us about your wills, we review these issues with you. We raise with you the issues we see arising from your existing structures, and also let you know how those issues can be resolved. You may find that a simple will will adequately meet your needs. Or, you may discover that a comprehensive and strategic review is in order, which, in addition to providing for your family and friends on your death, can have far reaching beneficial effects upon your current financial position.
Get the facts. Get Help. Call our team.