Making a Will – with or without help!

Knowing whether to write your own or where to seek help will affect the outcome.
And knowing where to start for many people determines whether they make a Will or not.

Would you be a potential beneficiary for the estate of any adults in your family? If so, have they made a Will or are you going to miss out on an inheritance? Ask the question and let them know how easy it is for anyone to have a Will.

Optional: If you are unsure whether to make a Will, you may wish to read a post called “Intestacy – Dying without a Will”. It sets a foundation for this post.

Purpose of this Post
⦁ Become more familiar with Making a Will
⦁ How to begin and what to include or exclude when Making a Will
⦁ Do It Yourself(DIY) or get help
⦁ What to do in complicated situations

List of topics
1. Write your own – Do It Yourself(DIY)
2. Get legal help – Lawyer, Estate Planner or Public Trust
3. Get a Professional Estate Planner
4. Other helpful topics

DISCLAIMER
This post is written in everyday language so that anyone reading it can gain some insight concerning the topic of Making a Will(Testacy). I am not a Lawyer or an Expert on Wills, Intestacy, Trusts, Estate Planning or any of these related topics nor am I qualified to give advice. Professional advice is always available when you are making decisions surrounding your estate, belongings and dependants for when you die. I reside in Australia therefore much of what I discuss relates to Australian Law or the relevant State in Australia. Regardless of geographic location, these posts are intended to provide a starting point for your investigation.

FAQ’s
1. Can anyone write a Will? Yes, if you are *18yrs and over (i.e. in Australia, UK, USA, NZ just to name a few)*or younger in special circumstances(and some countries)
2. Do I have to write a Will? No, it is not a law
3. Is it free to write a Will? There are Free options
4. Do I need a Lawyer? No, but in some cases it is probably a good idea
5. Is a Will a Legal Document? Yes, if it is prepared correctly otherwise it is invalid
6. Are there other options besides DIY & Lawyers? Yes, the Public Trust – a topic covered below

Why write a Will?

Without a Will, you cannot control who inherits your assets/estate. If you have dependants, you cannot control who will take care of them.

A Will is a legal document which allows you to leave instructions for who you want to give your assets to (your Beneficiaries). You can make arrangements with someone you trust to administer your estate when you die(your Executor/s).

Dependants & Pets
⦁ You can make arrangements with people to become Guardians for your children or disabled or elderly dependants.
⦁ You can make long term arrangements for your beloved Pets and some people leave funds for care.
⦁ Short term arrangements should be made outside of your Will as Wills take months to settle and meanwhile your children and pets need taking care of. Pets are covered under separate topics on this website

Option 1 – Write your own – DIY

Writing our own Will
Anyone can prepare a Will if they are over 18-years and they are of sound mind. This is the case in Australia so check the Laws in your own country for minimum age and conditions.

Recommended requirements for a Basic Will. It should be:
⦁ In writing – preferably typed for easy reading, handwritten is acceptable but not if it is illegible
⦁ Signed by you and witnessed by two people(who are over 18yrs and not a beneficiary)
⦁ Each page must be signed by the Owner(you) and the two Witnesses
⦁ Intact with no alterations i.e. erasures, corrections, additions – see more about this under the topic Codicils below.

If you decide to make your own Will, here are some helpful suggestions
1. Do your research – the internet is a great resource
2. DIY kits can be found online, some Funeral Insurance companies provide them, the Post Office or Stationers may have hard copy DIY Will forms.
3. Visit your state’s Public Trust website to understand what is needed in your State – the Laws vary between States.
4. Provide explicit instructions and be clear about the identities of beneficiaries, especially when they have been named after family members
5. If you choose to exclude someone from your will, make it clear this was intentional to avoid future legal challenges. Provide clear explanations to avoid misinterpretation.
6. Include back up Beneficiaries & Executors. Sometimes your nominated Beneficiaries & Executors can no longer perform roles or accept the inheritance.
7. Store it somewhere safe but within reach of those that need to locate it – not a safety deposit box. Tell your Executor and those closest to you where they can find your Will.
8. Keep a list of other relevant documents with your Will. This is where the Brown Satchel comes in handy – everything is stored together.
9. Once you have finished making your Will, don’t store it and forget about it. Ensure you update it as your circumstances change or review it every few years.

Some pitfalls when Making your own Will
⦁ If your Will is unclear, or you have omitted to follow the correct procedures for Making a Will it may become Invalid which leaves your estate Intestate.
⦁ Your Will is a legal document even if you write it yourself. If you do not understand the implications of including and excluding beneficiaries, your Will can be contested in court by family and partners that have rights to your estate. This can be very costly. Legal fees can easily escalate into tens of thousands of dollars. If you have a significant estate or dependants, it is advisable to get qualified help when Making a Will
⦁ Locating your current Will at your time of death may be difficult.

Will Kit reviews
Examples of Will Kit reviews

Option 2 – Get legal help

When do you need legal advice?
There are a lot of issues that need special attention to make sure your will is valid and your wishes will be carried out. If you have a combination of a few of the following scenarios, unless you are experienced in Making Wills and Estate Planning you may want to seek help:

⦁ a change in marital status such as marriage, separation or divorce, old and new partners
⦁ balancing needs of your new partner and any children
⦁ obligations you have to stepchildren or other non-relatives who are (or claim to be) dependants
⦁ taxation of estate assets
⦁ superannuation
⦁ jointly held assets such as property
⦁ a gift you give to someone before you die – especially of monetary value
⦁ future control of a company or family trust
⦁ distribution of sentimental items
⦁ pets
⦁ business partners

More information on getting advice
Getting advice

Option 3 – Get a professional Estate Planner

Complex Wills
If your Will or situation is complex or complicated, such as, you have a blended family, beneficiaries you want to exclude, you have dependants with complex needs or you want to provide for them in many years to come, you have a Business where a partner is involved and a multitude of other areas that are not straight forward, unless you are experienced in the field of Estate Planning and all the associated Laws, you may want to consult a qualified Legal Estate Planner to help you make your Will.

Complex Wills are going to be covered in a topic that discusses Testamentary Trusts and Modern Wills – it is a most interesting topic that should not be missed and covers Trusts, preserving funds for young beneficiaries, beneficiaries with addictions, protecting an inheritance from bankruptcy and so much more.

Other helpful topics for Making a Will

What is included in a Will?
⦁ Nominated Executor/s
⦁ Everyone you want to include as Beneficiaries
⦁ List those you are excluding, preferably include why which is helpful if contested
⦁ List of assets
⦁ Name who gets what
⦁ Instructions for dependants
⦁ Add any other instructions
⦁ Some people include Funeral Arrangements, Organ Donations and arrangements for Pets but these need to be included in a document that can be executed immediately before or upon death. These topics are discussed in separate posts on this website

What typically is not covered in a will?
⦁ Some jointly held assets such as a joint bank account, a joint home, a jointly registered car, those assets will typically pass automatically to the co-owner rather than be included in a Will.
⦁ Superannuation is not automatically part of an estate. Beneficiaries are often nominated on the Policy. The Trustee of the Superannuation Fund has some power over the beneficiary in some circumstances. Some Superannuation Policies come with a built in Life Insurance Policy.
⦁ If you have a Self Managed Super Fund then you may want to seek advice as to how this can be managed when you die.
⦁ Life insurance policies are not automatically part of an estate. Beneficiaries are often nominated on the Policy. Beneficiaries can be people, your estate or a Trust.
⦁ Superannuation & various types of Insurance will be covered on this website under separate topics.

Changing a Will
You should think about updating your Will when:
⦁ you get married or enter a de facto relationship
⦁ there are children from previous relationships
⦁ you separate, divorce or end a de facto relationship or change partners
⦁ children or grandchildren are born
⦁ your executor or a beneficiary dies
⦁ your financial circumstances significantly change.
⦁ If you move States or Countries – Laws may be different

Codicil – Writing Codicils (changes to your will) and FAQs
1) As a general rule, you shouldn’t make more than two or three Codicils. If you need to make further changes you should write a completely new Will. This avoids the danger that multiple Codicils could confuse your intentions.
2) My address has changed. Do I need a Codicil?
No, there is no need to make a Codicil or re-write your Will if you change your address. An old address can still be used to identify you and your Will. Don’t hand-write any change of address on your Will – it’s not necessary and it will invalidate your Will! Note: If you have moved States or Countries, your entire Will should be reviewed.
3) I want to make major changes to my Will.
Only use a Codicil if you want to make minor changes to your Will. If you have re-thought your Will and want to make major changes, you are much better off writing a new Will and “revoking” (or cancelling) your old Will.
4) Can’t I just handwrite changes on my Will?
No, you should never change your Will by handwriting changes, making notes or striking out any gifts or donations.
5) Never write alterations on your Will – it will invalidate the Will! Use a Codicil to make additions, substitutions, revisions, etc. to your Will.

What is The Public Trustee
⦁ The Public Trustee is an Office which provides financial, trustee and legal services to the public(established in Commonwealth countries which are territories under the British Empire) – for non-Commonwealth Countries, you can google “who handles testacy in e.g. Spain(enter your country)”
⦁ They act on behalf of The State, Territory or Country and also handle Intestate Estates
⦁ They are a self-funded non-government corporation sole
⦁ They have the capacity and qualifications to manage deceased estates – this includes Testate and Intestate Estates.
⦁ They provide free Will Making Services and safe storage for Wills. If they are nominated as Executors of the Will they have a schedule of fees for which they can provide an estimated cost according to the simplicity or complexity of a Will.
⦁ They provide Administrative services for Intestate Estates when no next of kin is available for the role.
⦁ If next of kin choose to provide Administration for a deceased estate. they can assist for a competitive fee
Note: An Administrator is appointed by a Court of law to Administer an Intestate Estate. An Executor is nominated within a Will to Administer a Testate Estate.

More information about The Public trustee
More about Public Trust

What happens after I die?
After you die, your Executor locates your Will, arranges your funeral and notifies beneficiaries of your death, if your family has not already done so. Your Executor then begins the process of applying for Probate to enable them to administer your estate.

The next topic to be posted will be “Testamentary Trusts – Modern Wills”
This next post discusses Wills for large estates and/or complex situations which can be any number of scenarios such as the blended family, former, existing or multiple partners, spouses & de facto, adopted, illegitimate, abandoned children or mixed families, dependent children, child beneficiaries, irresponsible beneficiaries, elderly or disabled dependants, business partners, beneficiaries facing bankruptcy. There are so many scenarios but they can all be managed with the correct planning.

This website will be covering more topics such as:
Testamentary Trusts, Life & Funeral insurance, Care of your Pets, Organ Donation, Funeral details, choosing Caskets or making your own,choosing Burial Plots or spreading Ashes, telling your story before you die, procedures to be Returned Home for burial overseas and so much more.

New topics and checklists – want to be informed when they are ready?
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If you have a question I will respond as soon as I can.

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10 comments

  1. Hi there,

    This is a very interesting article to me because I’m not at all familiar with the legality and the particularities of writing a Will.
    I think it’s smart to make one. Does it take a lot of time and is it expensive?

    1. Hi Asen, An experienced person can help you make a Will in a few hours or you can write your own. It can be expensive depending on who prepares it for you. You might have free options in your country like we do. Just use google to find out or ask friends or refer to some of the tips in the post. Hope this helps.

      Chrissie

  2. This post comes at the right time. The other day, me and my husband were discussing issues regarding sibling rivalry due to inheritance of wealth. I think a will is very important and we might consider writing one in the near future. Thanks for this helpful article.

    1. Hi Ina, sibling rivalry is a really good reason to have a Will – making the decisions ourselves will save a lot of problems. I’m glad you found it helpful.

      Chrissie

  3. Something I keep saying that I am going to get around to doing but tomorrow never seems to come.

    Reading your post as just made me aware that I should get serious about this.

    I mean who wants the government to get hold of what you have worked hard for all your life, I know I don’t, they have had enough money out of me my entire life.

    I am flooded with emails regarding this very fact and I personally think there is no real need to employ a solicitor/lawyer and that it can be done by oneself without too much difficult. I mean you have all the information that you would ever need at your fingertips so why pay ludicrous amounts.

    Thank you for sharing some great advice here!

    1. Mick, exactly – our Public Trust works in this manner. Any Intestate estates where they cannot find beneficiaries only as far as cousins, Aunts & uncles, defaults to them. And a huge percentage of people die Intestate. All those homes, Life Insurance, Superannuation amounts to a lot. Thanks for your interest.

      Chrissie

  4. Chrissie,

    Thanks for the article, I have a will but it’s old. I’m wondering if a rewrite is a better option than a codicil due to the number of changes I have to make. The changes are mostly additions, but I’m worried that there might be some confusion due to the number of them.

    I guess I really have two questions:
    Should go through a lawyer to make sure the new will and old one won’t cause conflicts?
    Is it time for a rewrite?

    Thanks in advance,
    Sean

    1. Sean, you can find someone locally to speak to, advice is often free. You might have a free option in your country as we do, The Public Trust, or they may walk you through rewriting your own or you may be best to hire a Lawyer or Estate Planner – depends on your situation and how much is at stake. All the best.

      Chrissie

  5. Interesting article. While I have heard of wills, I have never given much thought to having one officially put together. But after having found your site and read the article, I will and I will use your site.

    Thanks for sharing.

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