Even if the state of your personal and financial affairs do seem to be in order, writing a Will for the first time can be tricky. There is a lot to think about, and it can be surprisingly easy to leave out key details.
To avoid the risk, it’s a good idea to consult a Wills and Estate lawyer. Not only will they take the burden off your shoulders, they will make sure your Will is valid and that it has in-place the correct provisions to keep your family secure after you are gone.
Here is a list of 10 things to consider to help you plan ahead for the future.
1. Choose the Right Beneficiaries
While this may sound obvious, it is vital that you choose the right people and that your list of beneficiaries is up to date. The good news is, when your circumstances do change, you have the freedom to update your Will at any time.
All you have to do is contact your Will lawyer and they’ll update it for you – easy!
2. Have your Pets looked after
Who will look after your four-legged friends (or any other pet) after you’re gone? Now is the time to decide. Make sure that you nominate a person who clearly loves animals and who knows – or is at least willing to learn – how to look after your exact type of pet.
To make things easier, you may wish to set aside extra funds for the nominated person, so that they have the financial means to care for your pet.
3. Choose the Right Executor
The role of an executor is a serious responsibility. They have to manage your estate and oversee the distribution of your assets in accordance with the terms of the Will. Also, they must be able to handle complex legal and financial matters, and liaison with Lawyers and Accountants on a regular basis.
For these reasons, it is important that you choose someone who has the ability and capacity to assume the role of executor. If you have trouble deciding, your Wills and Estate Lawyer will be able to help you make the right choice.
4. Donate to a charity that is meaningful to you
Once you have allocated the distribution of assets to friends and family, you may also wish to donate to a charity of your choice. This process is very straightforward. All you have to do is nominate your preferred charity and set the amount of money you wish to donate. Your Executor will then follow through on this request when the time comes.
5. Give your children a brighter future
Even if you live with a partner you can depend on, you should still nominate a trusted person who, in the event that both you and your partner die, will continue to provide daily care for any surviving children under the age of 18 years.
You should discuss with your nominated Testamentary Guardian about the kind of long-term care, welfare, and development of your children. Ideally, they should be someone who is clearly invested in your personal interests, and will go above and beyond to give your children the best possible care.
6. Enjoy greater control and flexibility with a Testamentary Trust
What if you could protect your assets and reduce the amount of tax your beneficiaries pay? Consider a Testamentary Trust.
How this works is simple. First, you create a separate trust under your Will, which cannot be accessed by creditors, divorcing partners, or even certain beneficiaries. Then, the income earned from the trust is gradually distributed to your beneficiaries according to your instructions, for which they pay tax on each income they receive. By splitting things up this way, the total amount of tax your beneficiaries pay is less than if they inherited the total income upfront.
Best of all? The trust will continue to provide for not just direct beneficiaries but also for future generations too.
7. Pass on sentimental items to the right people
These can be items from a current or past generation that is of sentimental value to one or more family members. They can be anything, for instance jewellery, furniture, paintings, or dolls. Whatever the item is, you have the freedom to pass it on to any family members of your choice.
8. Prevent a Will Contest to avoid family disputes
If a family member is unhappy with the amount of their inheritance, or they feel that they have been unfairly left out of the Will, they may try to Contest it. With help from a Wills and Estate Lawyer, there are a few ways you can prevent this from happening.
One way is to explain, either in writing or in person, the reasons behind the decisions in your Will. By doing so, you will help the family make sense of why certain people are either not in the Will or getting a reduced share.
Another effective way to stop people from challenging your Will is to include a no-contest clause. How does it work? It’s simple. You leave something of value to – who you perceive to be – a disgruntled family member. In the clause, you state if that person tries to challenge the Will and loses, they will get nothing. By doing this, the family member is less likely to Contest, as the risk of losing something of value is too great.
9. Receive the health care you need
There may come a time where you are incapacitated and no longer able to make decisions on your own. When this happens, you should have a clear set of instructions – in the form of an Advanced Health Directive – in regards to the kind of medical treatment and health care you want to receive.
This formal document should also explain to health professionals all that they need to know, including specific health conditions, allergies, and religious, spiritual or cultural beliefs that may affect your care.
10. Speak to a Wills and Estate Lawyer
If you are writing a Will for the first time and need assistance, get in touch with a Will Lawyer.
At McDonnell Schroder, we take the time to carefully assess your circumstances and guide you each step of the way while making sure all documents are valid in accordance with your relevant state or territory.
Best of all? Our services are provided to you in a friendly, honest, and professional manner, so that the experience is stress-free and you have peace of mind knowing your affairs are in order.
To speak to a certified Wills and Estate Lawyer, call McDonnell Schroder today on (02) 9622 1155.