What Is the Definition of a Will?
What Is the Definition of a Will?
The definition of a will is a legal document that sets out what you would like to happen to your assets when you die.
A will also covers several other details, including who will look after your minor children, what your wishes are for your funeral and who would like to name as executor.
Making a will allows you to express exactly how you would like your assets distributed amongst your family and friends, rather than letting the law decide for you.
Why Make a Will?
Making a legally binding will is the only way to ensure your estate will be dealt with according to your wishes. Your will should be clear and concise because, at the time of its reading, you will not be around to clarify your intentions.
A will is your chance to provide for your loved ones after your death, state your plans for your funeral and appoint an executor that you know and trust to enact these wishes for you.
The Role of the Executor
The role of the executor is to carry out your desires as stated in your will.
It is a good idea to choose more than one executor in case one is not available at the time of your death.
Appointing two executors also spreads out the workload in what can be a time-consuming and stressful process.
The executors you choose should be over the age of eighteen and people that you trust to make decisions on your behalf if necessary.
Responsibilities of the executor include:
- Locating the will
- Organising your funeral, burial or cremation
- Applying for probate (if necessary)
- Settling any debts accrued by or owed to the estate
- Notifying beneficiaries of their share of your assets
- Distributing your assets
What should you include in your Will?
When writing your will, you should include all your assets and liabilities.
Gather together a list of your assets, including:
- Any physical assets such as properties, cars and jewellery
- All financial assets including stocks, shares and bank accounts
- Personal possessions with sentimental value that you would like to pass down to your loved ones
You should also make a list of all your liabilities, including mortgages and loans.
Think about the assets that currently have associated liabilities (for example, property with a loan attached) and decide whether you would like the estate to settle these liabilities before distributing the assets to your beneficiaries.
Rights as a Beneficiary of a Will
The people you name in your will to receive your assets have formal rights as a beneficiary of your will.
These rights include:
- Being informed about the will and the nature of their entitlement from the estate and any liabilities attached to these entitlements
- Being made aware of any legal proceedings or claims made against the estate
- Receiving their entitlement within 12 months of the deceased’s death, unless otherwise stated in the will
When You Should Write a Will
If you are an adult over the age of eighteen, you should seriously consider writing a will if you haven’t already. The following life events are also a good time to re-assess and possibly amend your will:
- Marriage or re-marriage. Keep in mind that getting married will revoke any pre-existing wills
- Entering into a serious de facto relationship or moving in with your partner
- Separation or divorce, which unlike remarrying, do not revoke previously written wills
- Buying a home, investment property or other significant assets
- Buying or starting a business
Disadvantages of Not Having a Will
There are many financial and personal disadvantages to not having a will.
If you die without a will (formerly known as dying intestate), the court will be left to decide how your estate and assets are distributed.
Not having a will also incurs additional costs that must be covered by the estate, leaving your loved ones with less than they would have received otherwise.
Without a will, the court will appoint a trustee executor to distribute your remaining assets according to a strict, pre-determined legal formula and may likely exclude loved ones you wished to provide for.
Making a legally binding will and keeping it up to date avoids the division of your assets being left to a stranger who knows nothing about you or your loved ones.