Welcome to Safewill. These guidance notes provide legal information to assist you in understanding the basics of Will-writing, and to assess whether Safewill is appropriate for your personal circumstances. These notes have been prepared in conjunction with, and under the oversight of, our legal advisers.
Please note that Safewill is not a law firm and does not provide legal advice. If after reading these guidance notes you are unsure of whether Safewill is right for you, we recommend seeking independent legal advice.
Glossary of terms
If you are unsure whether you have physical capability, we recommend seeking independent advice.
If you are unsure whether you have physical capability, we recommend seeking independent advice.
What is a Will? A Will is a legal document that describes how you wish your assets and posse to be distributed when you die.
Why do I need a Will? A Will is important for every New Zealander over the age of 18, regardless of what you own. Writing a Will ensures that your assets and possessions are distributed according to your wishes, and minimises the potential conflict that could take place after your death. Without having a Will in place, a court may determine how your assets and possessions (and even your pets) will be administered, however by having a Will, you can select who administers your estate and who will be the appointed guardian for your loved ones after you pass.
Who is able to write a Will? A Will can be written by any New Zealand adult over the age of 18, as long as they have testamentary and physical capacity, and are not acting under undue duress (these are explained in the glossary section of these Guidance Notes). In certain circumstances, a person under the age of 18 will also be able to make a Will if they have the consent of the court. Safewill is not for use for people under the age of 18, or those who do not have testamentary or physical capacity and require specialist legal advice. If you are unsure about whether you meet these criteria, we recommend seeking independent legal advice.
Is Safewill right for me? Generally speaking, Safewill may be appropriate for any New Zealand resident above the age of 18 years, who does not have a particularly complex estate (e.g. one with overseas assets, beneficial interests in trusts etc). If you are over 18 years and legally able to make a Will, Safewill provides you with a quick and easy method for writing your own legally valid Will that will cover matters such as guardianship provisions, estate and asset distribution, and other clauses such as gifts and a Statement of Wishes. Safewill, however, provides legal information only, and does not provide legal advice in writing your Will.
If you do have a complex estate or personal situation, you are unsure whether you can legally write a Will, or you require further advice to properly direct you in disposing of your assets, we recommend seeking independent legal advice.
How do I validly sign my Will? Once you have completed writing your Will and you have received your PDF Will from us, there are four steps to validly execute your Will. Before signing your Will, you must make sure that you have two witnesses present to witness your signing of the document. These instructions have been provided by our legal advisers:
When do I need to change my Will? Your Will should not be a static document – it should be updated regularly to reflect your current circumstances and wishes. This ensures that should the unthinkable happen and you pass away, your executor has in written form, your most current wishes directing them to carry out those wishes in accordance with your Will. In particular, your Will should be updated if:
Do I need to appoint a guardian? If you have any child or children who are under 18 years of age, it is recommended that you consider appointing someone as their guardian.
In many instances, a guardian clause will only become relevant if the other parent has died. Ultimately, a court (such as the Family Court) can decide who should be appointed as the guardian based on what is considered to be in the best interests of the child or children. However, the court will usually take into account your wishes as expressed in your Will and for those reasons, appointing a guardian is something that you may wish to consider to ensure the best outcome for your child or children. If you are unsure or have any queries or concerns whatsoever about appointing a guardian, we recommend that you seek independent legal advice.
Who should I select as guardian? Guardianship is a complex area of law, and you should consider carefully who would be best positioned to look after the welfare of your children if both you and the child’s other parent were to pass. If you are unsure about who to select as a guardian, you may wish to obtain independent legal advice. Your choice for guardianship is a very important decision. When assessing the suitability of a guardian for your children, some of the matters that you may wish to take into consideration are as follows:
What is an executor? What are their responsibilities? An executor is the person you nominate in your Will to take care of everything related to your estate after you pass.
Executors take control of your estate upon death, and are tasked with obtaining probate, following the instructions of your Will, and managing any other conflicts or responsibilities that may arise. Any small assets that are not dealt with in your Will are given to your executor to distribute.
Your executor is tasked with ‘administering your estate’. Simply speaking, this means that they are responsible for ensuring all expenses and debts are paid, and all assets are distributed according to the instructions in your Will. More specifically, they will be responsible for:
Who should I select as executor? When preparing a Will using Safewill, you can appoint up to two co-executors, and two back-up executors should your primary executor(s) be unable or unwilling to accept this responsibility. Where you appoint two primary executors, they will need to work together to administer your estate, unless one of them is unable or unwilling to act at the time of your death, in which case only one will act as executor.
It is best practice to also appoint a back-up executor. A back-up executor will only accept responsibility where all primary executors are unwilling or unable to accept their executorship. Safewill allows you to appoint two back up executors.
You can appoint anyone you wish as your executor, as long as they are above the age of 18 years, they are not an undischarged bankrupt or incarcerated, and they are not prevented from acting as executor due to a disability. Your executor must also be ordinarily resident in New Zealand, and must have mental capacity i.e. sound mind, memory and understanding of significance and nature of administering an estate.
Your executor(s) must be able to perform functions required to administer financial and legal affairs.
You should note that the role of being an executor can be a stressful and time-consuming task, and you may want to consider your chosen executor’s capacity to accept this responsibility.
Funeral Directives Any funeral directives to your executor are non-binding. Your executor will take all reasonable steps to try to accommodate your burial wishes, but is not bound to follow these directives.
What to consider in nominating beneficiaries? You are free to dispose of your assets under your Will as you deem fit. When choosing beneficiaries, however, it is important to consider the risk of claims being made against the estate by people who have not been provided for under your Will. This is because there are laws that allow certain people to bring a claim against the estate in certain circumstances. Where a gift to a beneficiary fails to vest, the gift becomes part of the residual estate. In order to minimise this risk, you may want to consider making adequate provision for those people to whom you may have a responsibility to provide for their support and welfare. If you are unsure whether someone has a claim or not, or whether you should make provision for a certain person under your Will, we recommend seeking independent legal advice.
Charities Charities can be listed as beneficiaries under your Will. Safewill has ‘partner charities’ with pre-populated details in our user workflow – these are example charities only. You are entirely free to choose any charitable beneficiary that you wish, and are absolutely not obligated to leave a gift to any of our charitable partners. In order to leave a gift to a charity, it is recommended that you provide their full legal name, address and Registration/Charity Number to ensure the correct charity receives your gift.
Please note that not all charities are endorsed tax exempt or deductible gift recipients. We recommend that you seek professional and financial advice regarding the charitable status of a beneficiary and the relevant tax consequences.
Leaving gifts to minors You are free to nominate beneficiaries under your Will that are not yet 18 years of age at the time of your death. Generally speaking, however, these beneficiaries are unable to take possession of their gift until they reach 18 years of age. In each state and territory there are different laws for payments that may be allowed to be made to underage beneficiaries prior to reaching the age of majority.
Gifts to minors will be discharged by the executor where the gift is delivered to the child’s parent or guardian. If you are unsure or have any concerns regarding the leaving of gifts to minors, we recommend seeking independent legal advice.
Sums of money You can leave specified sums of money to beneficiaries. Where the assets in your estate are insufficient to meet the gifts you have left, the gifts abate in proportion. Currently a Will generated using Safewill does not provide for prioritising beneficiaries, and should you require this option, we recommend seeking independent legal advice.
The relative value of gifts diminish over time and are not adjusted for inflation – your Will should be updated regularly to maintain the relative value of all gifts.
Solely owned property You can gift property that you solely own as you wish. It is important to note however, that if you do not own the property that you are gifting at the time of your death, the gift will fail. Any liabilities attached to gifted property are conveyed with the property, unless expressly stated.
Jointly owned property Property may also be jointly owned by you and another person or people. This will either be owned as tenants in common, or as joint tenants.
If your property is owned as tenants in common, you are free to distribute your share of the property however you wish under your Will. If your property is owned as joint tenants, you will not be able to dispose of your share (unless you are the last surviving joint owner, in which case, the entire property will form part of your estate). If you are unsure how your property is jointly held, we recommend seeking independent legal advice.
Life insurance If you have a life insurance policy, and you die in circumstances that lead to a policy payment, the proceeds of your policy do not automatically form part of your estate. Rather, this will depend upon the terms of your insurance policy, and whether you have a nominated death beneficiary under the policy. If you are unsure of what happens to your life insurance if you die, we recommend seeking independent financial advice.
The following exclusions apply to Safewill. If you are unsure whether the below apply to your circumstances or are required in your Will, we recommend seeking independent legal advice: