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Writing your final wishes can be an emotional process.
It may cast a gloomy shadow as you contemplate how you want to be cared for as you part with your family.
It may also evoke sentiments to consider properties you've worked hard for and how these can secure your loved ones' future.
Also, recounting the heirlooms you'll leave behind can instill a sense of pride. It may even prove comforting to know you have chosen someone to take care of your younger children when the inevitable happens.
On the other hand, composing a will can make you feel uneasy knowing that your wealth could ignite tensions between family members.
These and other reasons can make drafting a last will daunting, but it shouldn't deter you from making one. You may put it off for the time being, but you'll have to do it the soonest. After all, you don't know how long you'll live.
Proper phrasing of your will can give you peace of mind even if it evokes a host of emotions. It ensures young children and other family members are secure. A will also ensure that inheritance passes as a personal legacy without causing unnecessary stress and burden to your already grief-stricken family.
Things to remember when writing your will
When you finally find the time and strength to make your will, you would need to consider the following to make a clear reflection of your final desires.
- How you write it
Writing a will not only detail your final instructions as it also needs to be recognised by the law. In Australia, you can either consult a professional will writer or download a DIY will writing kit like those found at willed.com.au. These writing kits and services ensure that your words and wishes conform to applicable estate laws and regulations in your state or territory.
- Designate guardian for minor children
Wills also serve the purpose of securing minor children in case something happens to both parents. Husband and wife can create legal documents to identify and appoint a guardian who can take care of their children in their passing, along with detailed instructions as to where the children will reside, where they go to school, how they practice their religion, etc. It can even include information regarding children's financial support and how and when they can access these funds.
- Enumerate assets and debts
A last will also enumerate all your possessions in the form of real estate, vehicles, jewelry, antique and art collections. It can also include bank accounts, treasury notes, stocks and bonds certificates, business registrations, or intellectual property.
Besides these, you would also need to consider digital assets - photos, music, websites, email and social media accounts, online bank accounts and transactions, digital currencies, information stored in the cloud, including apps in your smartphone. Digital assets are anything and everything that you have stored online and on your computer. Some of these may even provide access or further information about properties.
Enumerating your assets also requires an estimate of their valuation which can be monetary, sentimental, or both. You would also need to identify ownership, whether you own it solely or with a spouse or business partner. Also, indicate where the pertinent documents are stored and your accountant or financial planner's contact details.
While wills commonly include assets, you should include any outstanding loans or mortgages under your name. This way, the executor of your will can adequately account for and manage your estate.
- Appoint an executor
Wills designate an executor to carry out your final instructions. This person is responsible for securing legal documents such as real estate deeds or other certificates. They are obliged by law to pay estate taxes and distribute assets to beneficiaries.
Experts suggest naming an alternate executor if the other person declines to have someone perform your wishes as intended.
- Assign beneficiaries
Beneficiaries are persons you want to give specific gifts or have a share in your estate. They usually include surviving spouse and children, next of kin, close friends, and even pets.
You can choose to divide your properties equally or specify gifts and heirlooms to specific individuals. You can even provide detailed instructions to care for children or family members with special needs, such as education or medical treatment.
Apart from family and friends, you can also include bequest intentions for your chosen charitable institution. They can receive a sum from your estate, or you can choose to donate some belongings to support their cause.
- Funeral instructions
A will secures not only living relatives but also your end-of-life care. You can provide detailed instructions regarding funeral arrangements and if you desire to be buried or cremated. You can even inform family members that you are a registered organ donor and have them consent to it upon your passing.
- Provide enduring power of attorney
While funeral instructions provide intimate ways for you to part with your loved ones, an Enduring Power of Attorney pertains to your desires for critical or nursing care when you become incapacitated. It appoints a reliable person to fulfill financial obligations or make personal decisions on your behalf.
- Update will regularly
Wills reflect your current social and financial status. It needs to be updated from time to time to account for life changes such as reaching the legal age, getting married or remarried, divorce, or common-law relationships.
It also includes adding new assets, starting a new business, or other personal circumstances that have future implications for those you will leave behind.
Updating your will accounts for complex family relationships and provides specific instructions for excluding previous beneficiaries and including new heirs.
Wills are essential pronouncements of a person's desires regarding loved ones and possessions. It ensures memorable parting with loved ones through detailed end-of-life care. Aside from this, wills ensure that inheritances pass on as a legacy to secure the ones you leave behind.