9 min read

Ultimate Checklist for Writing Your Will

Ready to write your will but not sure where to start? We've compiled a step-by-step checklist of all tasks and paperwork you can collect ahead of time to sail through the process. Offering a simplified roadmap to guide you through the legal document jargon and provide a useful checklist for during your will-writing.

Will organisation

Getting ready to write your Will

At Safewill, we appreciate writing your Will can be daunting. Confronting your end-of-life plans can feel overwhelming enough, without the added stress of complex jargon and intimidating but important legal documents to navigate. Sadly, we can't help you avoid death all together. But with our support, we can at least provide shelter from the Will stress storm which might be putting you off this important piece of life admin.

Our online process splits your Will-writing into manageable chunks, to be completed around your own personal circumstances. But if your looking to fly through as smoothly as possible, today we offer you a one-stop, ultimate list of everything you'll need to prepare in advance.

These 6 steps cover exactly what you'll need to prepare and to write your will:

  1. Identify all assets and liabilities
  2. Decide how & who you want to distribute these assets to
  3. Nominate executor, POA & guardians to carry out your wishes
  4. Communicate to superannuation & life insurance suppliers
  5. Gather documentation
  6. Review & Update your will

Step 1: Create an inventory of all your assets and liabilities

Compile a list of everything you own and assign a value to it. The final list inventory will cover all your personal assets, financial affairs and debts, including:

  • Financial circumstances on savings accounts and debts;
  • Shares, bonds and cryptocurrency;
  • Any private company you may own;
  • Real estate and properties;
  • Personal items; including vehicles, boats, motorcycles;
  • Any intellectual property including patents and copyrights;
  • Collectibles;
  • Valuable possessions or items with sentimental value;
  • Life insurance policies;
  • Superannuation savings.

Should I include digital assets in my will?

Yes. You'll also need to consider digital assets and accounts. To enable your family members easy access after you die, it can be useful to include a list of passwords and login details in your last will and testament. This covers digital devices, as well as online platforms used to access your digital assets across bank accounts, share holdings, vehicle registrations etc. If you wish, can also provide social media login details to preserve your digital legacy after you die.

When identifying your assets & debts, ask yourself:

  • What assets do you own?
  • What debts do you owe?
  • What digital assets and accounts do you have?
  • Where are your passwords and account details stored?

Step 2: Nominate people to take care of your wishes & affairs

Next, it's time to appoint people to carry out those all important wishes for you. When writing your will, it's important to think about several different roles which safeguard these wishes and protect your assets and your potential beneficiaries. Below we provide further information on who appoint, the whole process of what they'll do and things to consider in your choice:

Identify the Executor of your Will

  • Think of a responsible person, whether it's a family friend, trusted family member, lawyer, Public Trustee or other corporate provider, who you want to to handle your estate administration. They'll be responsible for managing your estate assets, superannuation fund, financial arrangements, and end-of-life wishes after you die. As this might involve selling property, attending the supreme court, filling out formal documents, it's important this person is of sound mind and able to cope with the time consuming nature of this role. Your choice may also rest on the Australian state they reside in, their ability to deal with these complex situations and make funeral arrangements.

Identify any appointed legal Guardian

  • This appoints a nominated person or surviving spouse to step in and care for any dependents if you pass away suddenly. To ensure this is legally valid, it's important to make these wishes clear in a formal document, such as your will. It's also important to communicate this wish with the nominated person, and provide advice on any further wishes should this occur.

Identify any Power of Attorneys

  • 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 circumstances change and you become incapacitated. This represents a separate document, outlining everything from accounting advice to intended beneficiaries, as well as a successor if this appointed person dies.
  • If you decide to create your original Will with Safewill you can also set up your Power of Attorney document at the same time, utilising our legal advice service with an accredited specialist, whilst avoiding the excessive additional fees.

When deciding who to look after your affairs, ask yourself:

  • Who will be your Executor, the person responsible for your carrying out your wishes?
  • Who will be the Guardian of any minor children you may have?
  • Who will look after your pets?
  • Do you want extra legal protections to cover your assets & wishes?

An optional addition is to also leave these people directions on your end of life wishes, asking yourself:

  • What are your funeral preferences (including type of funeral, location, and music)
  • Do you prefer burial or cremation?
  • Guidance for how you want your life to be celebrated

Step 3: Distribute your estate

An important next step of creating a legal will is financial planning. Your own will provides an important legal document to guide beneficiaries of your assets, as well as what or how much each of these beneficiaries will get. This distribution of your assets marks an important part of the legacy you want to leave, and can include those in your immediate and blended families, as well as friends and charitable organisations.

How to include a charity in my new will?

At Safewill, we've partnered with hundreds of Australian charities, and seen first hand how big an impact even a small donation can have. From Unicef to the RSPCA, Plan International and Guide Dogs- charitable requests can allow you to make that extra difference in death.

We're passionate about making these donations easier for you and seamless for our charity partners. Our online Will-writing platform reflects this goal, and it's now easier than ever before to make charity bequests within our system. And you'll receive professional advice on the important documents required to transfer money or assets to these organisations.

What about alternative ways to distribute my assets in death?

To provide extra security to your asset distribution wishes, you may also consider establishing a trust. This could be a family discretionary or charity testamentary trust fund, which will distribute these assets to the designated beneficiaries according to predefined conditions.

When deciding how to distribute your estate, ask yourself:

  • Who do you want to receive what?
  • Do you want to leave any specific gifts to loved ones (such as cash or a prized possession)?
  • Do you want to support a charity in your Will?

Step 4: Update superannuation & life insurance policy

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 (which can provide an extra layer of protection when organising your affairs; helping to pay off any debts in a deceased estate or help to offset potential capital gains tax liabilities).

Writing your Will is a good time to review and update your beneficiaries for superannuation and life insurance policies. This is especially important, given that these funds do not automatically flow to the beneficiaries nominated in your Will.

Step 5: Sign, collect & secure legal document

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 neutral adults, who are not beneficiaries to the Will.

Previous versions of the will should be destroyed, and as the will maker you should then store this up to date document in a safe place. This could either be with a solicitor or in a safe deposit box, which can't be accessed by anyone until after your death.

Alongside the safe storage of your will, you should also file a collection of 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;
  • Passports;
  • 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.

Step 6: Review and update your Will

It's important to review and update your will every 3-5 years, or to coincide with certain life events. Whether it's having children, getting married, buying or selling property or even bringing a new pet into your life, it's important these new aspects of your life are safeguarded by the instructions in a valid will.

That's why we've made it so easier than ever before to access professional legal advice, as well as make changes to your will. And ultimately, why we believe writing your will online is the best option to facilitate these life and consequent will changes.

In Summary:

  • Submit your Will to our lawyers to review
  • Print, sign and date your Will before two witnesses when it's ready
  • Keep your Will up to date with unlimited free updates with Safewill for a full year after purchase

Start writing your Will around your personal circumstances today

Safewill offers legal guidance and estate planning support whilst saving you money, minimizing time consuming appointments and supporting you with a compassionate but professional legal advice.

We offer more guidance than a diy will or online will kit, and prevent you dying intestate because of financial barriers or errors in writing a valid will document. So kickstart getting your estate planning now, and chat through your options today; via 1800 103 310 , or live chat

Last updated 09th December 2021
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Hannah Comiskey
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Safewill is an online service providing streamlined forms and information. Safewill is not a law firm or a substitute for a lawyer’s advice about complex estate planning issues.