Lockdown in New Zealand sparked a flurry of people enquiring about writing their Will*. But it’s not just in a pandemic when an important legal Will needs serious consideration. While most people prefer not to think too much about what will happen when they pass, without a Will, your assets may be distributed according to the law of New Zealand (the Administration Act 1969), which may not be in line with your wishes. Take a look at these 5 things to consider when writing a Will.
1. What is a Will?
A Will is a legal document that outlines how a person’s assets are to be distributed when they pass. Not having a Will (known as dying intestate) means their assets are distributed in accordance with the provisions in the Administration Act 1969. Writing a Will is an opportunity to give some direction to how family and belongings are taken care of after a person has passed.
2. When to write a Will?
Consider writing a Will if any of the following apply to you:
- You have children under the age of 18 - you can also appoint their guardian in your Will.
- You have been living in a de facto relationship for three years or more.
- You’ve recently married, had children or divorced.
- You want to arrange for special care for family pets.
- You own property – a Will lets you specify who receives what from your estate.
- Last wishes and special requests can also be outlined in a Will.
It is also very important you review your Will regularly. Some of the events described above are also the triggers for undertaking a review of your Will.
3. What should be included in a Will?
There are a few things to think about when preparing a Will. Here are some questions you’ll need to answer for yourself:
- Who will be my executor? Your executor is the person you appoint to carry out your wishes, applying for the probate (court approval to deal with the estate), pay your debts and distribute your assets on your behalf to your beneficiaries. It should be someone you trust, who is dependable, organized and capable of engaging with instructing lawyers, and preferably someone who lives in the same country as you. The duties of an executor can be time consuming and challenging.
- Who will be my trustee? Often the role of executor and trustee are combined. Trustee can be a natural person or an organization and they are responsible for holding your assets until they can be distributed to the beneficiaries. A common example is where the beneficiary is a child and the assets are required to be invested until the child comes of age.
- What assets do I have and who would I like to leave them to? Your Will outlines how your assets are to be shared amongst your beneficiaries. You should outline specific gifts – perhaps items of sentimental value – as well as major assets like your home or investment property, who your beneficiaries are, and what share of your estate they will each receive.
- How can I provide for my children? Think about appointing a guardian for children under the age of 18.
- What are my final wishes?
4. What assets cannot be included in an estate?
There are some assets that cannot be distributed in a Will. These are assets that are jointly owned with another person – for example, your home, shares in an investment or savings in a joint bank account, insurance policies that already have a nominated beneficiary, and property held in a Trust.
5. How do I get started?
When it comes to writing a Will, you have three options:
- Contact a lawyer and pay them to complete your Will and ensure it is legitimate.
- Use a professional trustee company specializing in Wills. Some trustee companies offer online will making service.
- DIY Will kits are available online and you can simply fill out a template to generate a Will.
There are pros and cons to each of these options and it’s worthwhile researching each to decide which would work best for you. The more complicated your estate and family situation, the more it makes sense to have a legal Will drafted by a lawyer.
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