Background

According to Finder’s research, 10 million of Australians don’t have a will. This number does not include most people under the age of 18, meaning slightly over 50% of adults still do not have a will. Finder’s research revealed that 14% of adults believed they did not have enough assets to have a will and 34% of adults ‘haven’t got around to it yet’. Without a valid will, this can lead to financial chaos.

Who needs a will?

Wills are not just for the rich and wealth. Regardless of how much or how little money you have, a will ensures that whatever personal belongings and assets you have will go to family or other beneficiaries you designate. Looking past property and personal belongings, if you have minor children, a will is a must. A will ensures that you get to choose your children’s legal guardian should you pass before your children are of legal adult age. Without a will, a court makes these decisions on out behalf through a length process called a probate.

Do you need a lawyer?

For most people, a will is very easy to produce and can be prepared using legal software such as Quicken Willmaker Plus or other software which helps you create a Living Will, Living Trust, Bypass Trust, Financial Power of Attorney and other important legal forms. If you have a more complicated estate, or you’re not comfortable using software for the more complicated documents you should consult and estate attorney who may work with a CPA or financial planner.

How do you get started?

At a minimum your will at any stage in your life should appoint a guardian if you have minor children, appoint an executor to administer your will when you die and should spell out specifically how you want your property distributed. In deciding how you want your property to be distributed you will need to have the names, addresses and birth dates for anyone named in your will (children, spouse, proposed guardians, executor and other beneficiaries).You will also need to keep a record of amounts of all debts including mortgages, car loans, student loans, business loans and credit card accounts.

It is also essential to keep copies of existing wills, trusts, divorce decrees and any other legal documents that might affect your will. As life changes it is also best practice to revisit your will periodically or upon certain major life events to ensure that your will still reflects your desire. Lastly, the best of wills will be rendered useless if nobody knows how to find it. Make sure your family members and your executor know where your will is kept.

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