Although the word “will” is familiar, it is not always appreciated why it is important to make a will. For some of us, the thought of our own mortality is overwhelming and putting one’s affairs in order is easy to put off. The problem with taking that approach is you may leave it too late and ultimately not have the opportunity to put your affairs in order.

A will is a legal document containing a person’s wishes and directions for the disposal of her assets or property on death. Sounds simple, not quite. A will comes into effect on death. It should be clear on its terms, deal with all of the person’s estate, and put in place contingency plans for alternate scenarios that may exist at the date of death.

Many people are surprised to discover not all of their assets or financial resources will form part of their estate. For example, jointly owned property will pass at law to the surviving joint tenants on death of a joint tenant.1 Superannuation,2 life insurance proceeds, or trust funds are not assets of a deceased estate.

All wills should have contingency plans in place because you never know who will survive whom or the prevailing circumstances as at the date of death. This may be done by appointing alternate executors or nominating alternate beneficiaries or classes of beneficiaries for the distribution of the estate.

Once made, a will remains in place unless revoked by a later will or marriage if the will is not made in contemplation of the marriage. It is important to review your will at different stages of life or should there be a significant change in your personal situation. For example, reviewing and updating your will to appoint adult children as executors or alternate executors in place of a partner, siblings or friends, or in the event of divorce or relationship breakdown.

A will should be tailored to the individual’s family and personal circumstances taking into account the nature and composition of the assets, property, and liabilities. The best way to ensure your wishes are carried out is to seek legal advice for estate planning or to make a will. Doing so may give you peace of mind and make things easier for those left behind to deal with your affairs.

Contact us at Middleton Gardiner & Associates on telephone 02 8005 4057 or by email [email protected] if you require advice or assistance in regard estate planning or to make a will.

This article contains general information which may not correct, complete or current at the time of reading. It is not intended that this article is to be used or relied upon as specific legal advice. A reader should seek legal advice from a legal practitioner in relation to any particular or proposed transactions. Middleton Gardiner & Associates expressly disclaim all liability relating to any actions taken or alleged to be taken based on the content of this article. 

1 In NSW, jointly owned property is notional estate in family provision proceedings.

2 Subject to an exception that superannuation may become an asset of the estate if death benefits are paid to the estate pursuant to binding death benefit nomination or at the discretion of the superannuation trustee