As seasoned Wills and estate planning lawyers, we’re regularly asked, “When should I get a Will?” or “When should I update my Will?”
Of course everyone’s situation is different, but in this article you’ll find an outline of the common scenarios that affect your Will, or your need to get one.
Why you need a Will
When it comes to Wills and the future of your family, you don’t want to leave anything up to chance.
If you don’t have a Will it means you die intestate, so the State law governs how your property and assets are distributed. If you have specific wishes about how your assets are to be divided between your loved ones, you must outline this in a Will. Otherwise it will be determined with reference to the applicable law and it may not go to the people you want.
By having your wishes plainly stated in a Will, it also helps to prevent disputes (although not always unfortunately, particularly if the Will has not been drafted clearly or correctly). There’s nothing worse than seeing a family torn apart over disagreements regarding their loved one’s estate – you have the power to prevent that by getting your affairs in order before you go.
So when should you get a Will?
Anyone over the age of 18 can have a Will, however you may not need one until certain life events or circumstances happen.
You are in a long-term relationship and/or get married
If you are married it is normal for your entire estate (your property and assets) to go to your spouse. So if you would like to leave something to someone else, you must state it in a Will. In fact, even if you do simply want everything to go to your spouse, it’s recommended to confirm that in a Will so you can be 100% sure it happens.
If you are not married but in a long-term relationship it can get a little more complicated, because the formation and dissolution of the relationship is not as clear cut as a legal marriage or divorce, so it can be easier for disputes to arise. In this instance, seeking the guidance of a professional to draft your Will is very important.
You have children
Standard protocol if you are married is for your children to inherit your estate after your spouse, however this must not be assumed. If you would like your children to inherit something before or as well as your spouse, you must state it in a Will along with the specified portions and/or assets for each person.
When your children are young, you can also nominate in your Will who you would like to become their legal guardian and therefore responsible for raising them. This nomination is not binding but it does, in our experience, assist family members, or friends, in agreeing on this issue without the court’s intervention. Again, it’s best not to make assumptions here; a clear and concise Will gives everyone the peace of mind that your children will get the appropriate care when you’re gone.
You acquire assets
Once you start to acquire assets of significant value,it’s time to get a Will – again so you can ensure they’re distributed to the appropriate beneficiaries. This is even more important if you own the assets with another party or parties, like a business for example. If you want your family to inherit your portion, you’ll need to ensure this is clear in your Will, so it doesn’t get wrapped up in the business and/or distributed amongst your business associates or sold.
When to update your Will
Quite simply, whenever your life circumstances change, particularly in relation to the above; when your relationship status changes, you have children, or there’s a change in your net worth.
When to seek professional advice
We always recommend getting a professional to make your Will, so you can ensure your wishes are properly recorded and therefore more likely to be carried out in the event of your passing.
Luckily, the process of drafting a standard Will is extremely affordable with us (just $99), as we want to make it accessible to everyone. So if any of the above applies to you, or you’d like us to review your current Will to ensure it reflects everything you want, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and chat with one of our Wills and Estate Planning experts.
The above is general in nature and is not intended as legal advice. You should obtain legal advice in relation to your own specific circumstances.