Have You Made a Will?

We all hope that the need for such a document is a long way off. And it usually is! But the unthinkable happens and should be planned for; many people would rush out to make a will if they knew what happened to their assets in the absence of one.
Unless you have made a will, the most likely beneficiaries of your estate at the time of your death will be the legal profession and the government.
If an individual’s intentions about the distribution of assets after his or her death are unclear or non-existent, they are open to claims from any party who feels they have an interest. Conflicting claims can result in expensive legal fees that deplete the estate.
Even a hand written will is a legal document, but it must be signed by the person making the will and by two preferably independent witnesses. It is safer to use a lawyer to prepare your will and never try to change your existing will by writing on it or making any other alterations to it without professional assistance.
You can alter your will in one of two ways: you can either make a new will which will revoke the old one or you can have a change or addition prepared as a codicil to your existing will which must be signed and witnessed in the same way as a will.
Most wills require an executor – the person (or trustee organisation) named in the will as responsible for the administration of the estate until the final distribution of assets is made to the beneficiaries. Duties include locating the will, applying to the Supreme Court for a Grant of Probate, lodging taxation returns, advising beneficiaries, collecting assets, keeping proper records, paying debts and distributing the assets according to the terms of the will.
Many people appoint family and friends to the role of executor. Being an executor or a trustee is a demanding job. It requires a good understanding of legal, accounting and taxation requirements. Appointing family or friends can often be awkward, difficult and time-consuming for the person appointed. As executor, the person is financially liable for any mistakes in his or her administration. By appointing a professional you remove this burden from family and friends.
Married couples should remember that separation does not revoke a will. If you separate, make sure you update your will unless you wish your separated spouse to continue as beneficiary.
In fact, as your life moves from stage to stage, you should consider making a new will or adding to your existing will. The birth of children, the purchase or sale of property, retirement, death of a beneficiary, marriage, separation, divorce and remarriage are times when you should consider whether your existing will still reflects your wishes. Many experts recommend that it is even worth updating your will annually to cover the acquisition of assets or liabilities.

Leave a Reply