A Guide to Making a Will

Preparing for life after we die can be an unpleasant experience. However, arranging your affairs to ensure that you provide for your family and friends by making a will can provide you with peace of mind.

Making a legally valid will can be complicated. Fortunately, we have prepared the following four steps to help with this process.

1. Distribute your Assets

Firstly, you will need to choose some beneficiaries. These are the people who will receive your assets. In most cases these will your children, spouse, close friends and loved ones.

You may also wish to make some specific gifts. For example, you may wish to leave a sentimental family heirloom or loved old car to a particular family member or a lump sum of money as a cash legacy to your grandchildren.

Everything left over once your debts have been repaid and any specific gifts have been given Is usually referred to as the ‘residue’ of your estate. You will need to nominate a person to receive the residue of your estate. 

Importantly, by law you may be required to adequately provide for your dependents, such your spouse and children (even if they are over the age of 18). Failure to do so may leave your will open to legal challenges.

2. Choose an Executor, Trustee, Guardian

‘Appointing’ is the process of choosing individuals who will carry out your wishes as expressed in your will.

  • Executor: An executor is the person who ‘executes’ the instructions of your will. They are responsible for ensuring that your beneficiaries actually get what you have stated in your will.
  • Trustee: A trustee looks after assets held in a trust for the benefit of other people. Your executor and trustee may be the same person.
  • Guardian: If you have children under the age of 18, the guardian will be responsible for caring for them.

It is important to ask the people you choose to perform these duties if they are happy to do so. Consider the respective skill sets of these people and whether they will work well together. This will help ensure that your will is carried out as you intended.

3. Ensure Formal Writing Requirements are Met

There are specific, formal writing requirements which must be met to make your will valid. Failure to meet these requirements may mean the court will not give effect to your will. For a will to be valid, it must be:

  • In writing (handwritten or typed)
  • States that the document is intended to be your will
  • Signed by you on each page in front of at least two witnesses, and signed by the two witnesses following your signature
  • Dated at the time of signing

4. Store your will in a safe place

Finally, ensure your will is kept in a safe place, but also somewhere which is easily accessible in case it needs to be updated quickly. At Gordon Legal we offer to store your will for free in our safe custody facility. This will provide you with security and mean that your will is easily accessible to you, or upon your death, to your executors.  

It is a good idea to get some professional help with your Will. At Gordon Legal we are highly experienced in the area of Wills & Probate and would be happy to provide you with this assistance.

Please contact us on (03) 9603 3000 and one of our experienced lawyers will be happy to assist you.