Where there’s a will…

Whether you’re leaving your fortune to your grandchildren or the local cat shelter, making a will is one of the most important things you will ever do, so make sure it’s done properly.

There are five essential steps to writing a will that need to be followed to ensure that when you do pass on, you are ready.

1. Prepare early
Many people are either too proud or too afraid to write their will before they hit middle age, but the reality is that we live in an unpredictable world where anything can happen. The old adage that it’s better to be safe than sorry, whilst flippant in regards to the subject matter, is quite applicable in this instance. Preparation is absolutely pivotal; the last thing you want is your estate being tied up in legal wrangling, rather than passed on to your nearest and dearest

2. Get in touch with a lawyer
While not a necessity when writing a will, a lawyer will guide you through the often complex legalities involved. Obviously, there is a cost involved but it may save you time and stress and ensure you get it right. A family lawyer is the best person to contact but if you do not have one, contact the law society in your state or territory and they can advise a suitable practice in your area. Make sure you are happy with the relationship you have with your lawyer, this is the person who will be handling your legal affairs. Remember that as personal circumstances, legislation and tax laws change, so you should update your will every couple of years. Also, your lawyer will more than likely be the person who advises your loved ones of your last wishes, so take time to choose someone with empathy.

3. Choose beneficiaries and name an executor
You need to choose the loved ones you to whom you wish to leave all your worldly possessions. Keep in mind that organisations and charities can also be included in a will. The best way to do this is to work through it with a lawyer.

Choosing an executor is also essential. He/she is the person who will settle your affairs, pay your bills, file your income tax return, and carry out your wishes. Make sure this is someone you can trust and ask them first; it can be a shock to find out you’re responsible for someone’s affairs! Remember also, to ask your intended executor if they are willing to handle your affairs – and if they have the time.

4. Draft your will
The final version of your will should be checked by a lawyer but do your own legwork to minimise your legal bill. Dig out your papers, prepare a spreadsheet of your financial assets and liabilities and work out who you wish to have what. Your lawyer will then be able to advise you of any tax or legal implications of what you want to do and can quickly prepare the final version of your will

5. Consider a ‘Will Kit’
If going to a lawyer is beyond your means then there is a cheaper alternative. If you affairs are relatively simple, then a pre-prepared will kit can guide you through the process of writing your own will. Only consider kits from a reputable source and make sure they are legally binding.