A will, or testamentary disposition, is a written instruction about what you want to happen to your possessions when you die and who you want to implement that instruction. It can also include instructions regarding burial and what should happen to any assets you may hold on behalf of others as trustee.If you die without a will, you die intestate, which means your property will be distributed among your next of kin in accordance with State legislation enacted to cover this eventuality.
There are other estate planning techniques you can use to transfer at least some of your property without resorting to a will. For example:
A basic will must be in writing and should contain:
The executor(s) will usually be one or more of the beneficiaries under the will, and more often than not they will be family members. To ensure that they are willing to do the job, ask them. You can appoint a public trustee or trustee company as your executor, or as a substitute executor if your nominated executor dies before you or is otherwise unable to perform the role, but you should be aware that they charge a commission which can be several percent of the value of your estate. You can find links to the various State and Territory public trustee websites below.
You should store the original will in a safe place and keep a copy where it can be easily located by your executor.
Be sure to review your will from time to time. Circumstances and relationships change, so a will can easily get out of date and no longer reflect your intentions. Both marriage and divorce can have a big effect on a will, so it may be a good idea to make a new will in either circumstance.
It is not a good idea to try to alter a will by hand. You can change your will at any time by way of a further document called a "codicil", or better yet by making a new will and revoking your earlier will. To avoid possible future confusion, or even fraud, it is a good idea to destroy any out of date wills and codicils.
A will may be challenged if:
In some situations, State legislation has eroded the general principle that you have a right to give your estate to whoever you like. This is usually where the testator is found to have failed to make adequate provision for someone they were responsible for, such as children or their spouse or de-facto partner.
Many of the law firms listed in our Products and Services Directory will be able to assist you with will and estate planning matters.
The following links may also be useful: