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Make Your Will Count – A Healthy Will Checklist

It is important that everyone over the age of 18 years has a Will. Having a Will allows a person to ensure that their assets are distributed as they would want after they die.

If you die without a Will your assets will be divided according to a legal formula, which in many cases may prove unsatisfactory, and it may not be distributed as you would have desired.

A Will is also the place where you can indicate to your family and friends your wishes on other important matters, such as who you want to be the guardians of your minor children.

Regularly review your Will

Preparing a Will is not a once-off event. It is sensible to review your Will regularly.

Changes in both your personal and financial life may have unintended consequences for your Will. It may mean that the terms of your Will no longer reflect your wishes, and in some cases, it can even make your Will invalid.

It could be that a Will made many years ago is still appropriate, just as it may be that a recently made Will is now out of date.

Ideally you should review your Will annually, along with other annual events, such as lodging your taxation returns. It is likely that your needs and circumstances will change many times in the course of your life and with those changes it is prudent to consider your Will.

Healthy Will checklist

There are a number of life events that can impact on your Will and which mean you need to revisit and update it.

Here is a checklist of life changes which can impact on the validity of your Will and which you need to consider in examining the legal health of your existing Will.

  • Have you married? Have you been in a de facto relationship more than 2 years? Have you entered a civil partnership or a civil union?
  • Have you separated from your partner?  Have you divorced?
  • Have you had a child?
  • Have your children become adults? You should review your will as each child turns 18.
  • Is the person you named as your executor of your Will still an appropriate choice?
  • Have you named a guardian for your children under the age of 18 years?
  • Have the circumstances of any beneficiaries changed to make you reconsider your wishes, or have any of them died?
  • Have you nominated any specific gifts in your Will that are no longer valid or don’t exist?  For example, have you sold a property that you had left to someone in the Will?
  • Have you acquired any new assets that you would want to make specific plans for in your Will?
  • Have you changed or added to your superannuation?
  • Have you created a self-managed super fund?
  • Have you created any new legal structures, such as a trust or company?

Superannuation and Life Insurance

At the same time as you check the health of your Will, you need to check your super and life insurance, which is often now a part of your superannuation.

Many people assume their superannuation will be paid in accordance with the wishes in their Will, but that is not necessarily the case. You need to look at the terms of your superannuation arrangements very carefully to check if you are able to direct where your superannuation is paid or not.  If you are able to make a direction you should ensure that you have done so in a legal and effective manner.

When reviewing your life insurance, here are some questions you may wish to ask yourself.

  • Do you have adequate life insurance?
  • Is life insurance part of your superannuation arrangement?
  • Who is the owner of the policy?
  • Who will the benefits be paid to on your death?
  • Are these arrangements tax effective and do they fit into your estate plan?

Conclusion

The important thing is to regularly review your will as your circumstances change.

If you would like to discuss a new Will or review of your current estate planning arrangement please call us on 6140 3263 or email Brian Tetlow or Emma Bragg at mail@tetlowlegal.com.au.

You might also like to look at the article on the Tetlow Legal website on superannuation and wills here.