A lot of people put off writing their Will, in part, due to the daunting nature of the task. But if you break down the Will-writing process into lots of little steps it’s much easier to get it done. Our checklist will help you sort out your affairs as quickly and easily as possible.
Create an inventory of your assets and liabilities
Choose your executor and beneficiaries
Identify your digital assets and compile passwords
Decide how to protect your assets
Consider charitable donations or gifts
Get the paperwork ready
Update the beneficiaries for your superannuation or life insurance policies
Consider if you need other legal protections
Sign your Will and store it somewhere safe
Review and update your Will
Compile a list of everything you own in your name and assign a value to it. The inventory should include:
Savings accounts and debts;
Shares, bonds and cryptocurrency;
Real estate and properties;
Vehicles, boats, motorcycles;
Any intellectual property including patents and copyrights;
Valuable possessions or items with sentimental value;
Life insurance policies;
Figure out who you want to receive these assets when you die. These people will be your beneficiaries. If you have a spouse and children, think about how you want to divide your estate between them or if there are certain assets which might benefit one person more than others. If you don’t have a partner or children your beneficiaries can be other family members or even close friends. Make your intentions as clear as possible so there is no room for error.
Likewise, the executor will be the person who carries out your wishes when you die so it needs to be someone you can trust. It is beneficial (but not necessary) if they have some financial knowledge since they will be handling your assets and liabilities. An executor can be a family member, close friend, a lawyer, Public Trustee or other corporate provider.
These days most people use a digital platform to access their bank accounts, share holdings, vehicle registrations etc. So it can be helpful to create a list of passwords and account login details for any digital devices like mobile phones, laptops, tablets etc for your family to be able to access your digital assets when you die. You can also include logins for email accounts, online banking, shareholding platforms, and even social media accounts.
At this stage it may also be worth considering what you would like to happen with your digital legacy when you pass away. Social media accounts do not automatically deactivate upon your death. Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin or Twitter, each platform has a different process for how they manage profiles for users who have died.
Now that you’re armed with an inventory of all your assets it is time to decide how you want to keep them safe. In addition to creating a Will, you may want to think about alternative methods for distributing your assets like creating a family trust, or a testamentary trust.
If you have children or pets you will need to decide who will take care of them when you pass away. If you are married and your spouse survives you they will continue to act as the carer of any children you had together. However, in the rare situation where you and your spouse die at the same time it is important to name a guardian to look after any minor children or pets. When nominating your guardians you should also have a conversation with them to make sure they are comfortable taking on the responsibility upon your death.
Donating part of your estate to a charity of your choice can be a good way to leave a legacy when you pass away. Even a small amount of money can make a big difference to a not-for-profit organisation. When thinking about charitable donations consider causes which mean something to you like humanitarian aid, animal welfare or education. Safewill has partnered with 100s of Australia’s leading not-for-profit organisations like Unicef, the RSPCA, Plan International and Guide Dogs to make it easier than ever to make a bequest in your Will.
Collect all documents relating to your identity, relationships, the ownership of property and other assets and financial information. This will not only help you to create your Will but will make your executor’s life easier when the time comes to administer the deceased estate. Your paperwork should be made up of:
Birth, marriage, divorce or citizenship certificates;
Medicare and Centrelink details;
Financial documents including bank account details, credit cards information and investment portfolios;
Details and keys for safe deposit boxes or storage units;
Property titles or deeds;
Car registration and ownership papers;
Bank loan or mortgage documents;
Superannuation and life insurance information;
Organ/Tissue Donor preferences;
Funeral and burial arrangements; and
The contact details for your lawyer, accountant or financial adviser.
If you started working at a young age you may not remember who you nominated to receive your Superannuation payout upon your death. Likewise, it may have been months or years since you reviewed your life insurance policy (if you have one in place). Writing your Will is a good time to review and update to beneficiaries for these policies, as they do not automatically flow to the beneficiaries nominated in your Will.
When you create your Will it is a good time to think about whether you want to create other important legal documents which could protect you while you’re still alive.
Creating a Financial or Medical Power of Attorney, Power of Guardianship or making an Advance Care Directive will give your family clear instructions around handling your medical or financial needs if you become incapacitated. If you decide to create your Will with Safewill you can also set up your Power of Attorney document at the same time.
Life insurance can act as an extra layer of protection when organising your affairs. This can help to pay off any debts in a deceased estate or help to offset potential capital gains tax liabilities.
A Will does not become a valid legal document until a hard copy is dated and signed by the person who created it. It must also be witnessed and signed by two adults who are not beneficiaries to the Will. Then it should be stored somewhere safe, either with a solicitor or in a safe deposit box which can’t be accessed by anyone until after your death.
Even after you have created your Will it should be reviewed and updated every 3-5 years or to coincide with certain life events. Having children, getting married, buying or selling property or even bringing a new pet into your life all warrant an update of your Will. This is part of the reason why creating a Will online offers such a big advantage.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice but as a basic guide. If you have concerns or queries you should consult a legal professional about your specific circumstances.