Free will kit (Australia)
Looking to get your affairs in order? Find out all you need to know to get started with a free will kit.
Whether you're young or old, married or single – a will ensures your financial wishes are met when it's your time to go. While it may be a subject many would rather avoid, writing a will doesn't have to be a morbid process, nor does it have to be a lengthy affair.
Will kits offer a convenient and affordable alternative to full-service options, and they're designed to be just as effective as the. Use this guide to help you decide whether a free will kit is right for you, and find out where you can get one today.
What is a will?
A will is a legally binding document used to specify what happens to your assets – including property, money, jewellery and sentimental items – after you die. Wills can also be used to leave certain instructions for the person who will be in charge of managing your estate until its distribution, known as an executor. A will can specify who you'd like to care for any children who are minors, how you'd like your funeral to be managed or the donation of cash gifts and meaningful items to organisations such as charities.
How does a will kit work?
A will kit is a DIY option that will help you prepare your will and it can be low-cost or even free. Both paper-based and online will kits are available for you to compare. A will kit can be used when you first prepare your will and when your circumstances change. A change in circumstances could be a new marriage, de-facto relationship, separation, divorce, having a baby or the death of a beneficiary. Generally, it is suggested to review your will every two to three years.
Free will kit vs a lawyer
Anyone can prepare their own will if they are over 18 years old or married and deemed to be of sound mind. That said, there are some occasions when you might want to leave the legal work to the professionals.
If your wishes aren't a clear cut affair, say, if you have multiple dependents or assets that require special attention. In these or any other situation, a lawyer can make sure your will is valid. Unsurprisingly, this will come at a cost but it could be worth it to secure your assets.
Here some of the circumstances when you might want to consider a lawyer over a free will kit:
- A change in marital status
- Obligations to stepchildren or other non-relatives who could claim to be dependents
- Jointly held assets, such as property
- Future control of a company or family trust
On the other hand, a free will kit can be appropriate if your situation is fairly straightforward and easy to understand.
What should I look out for in a will kit?
A will kit should contain enough information to help you complete your will without assistance and be easy to understand.
Some of the key topics that should be covered include:
- Executor. The person named to carry out the terms of the will.
- Beneficiaries. The person or group that will receive assets from the deceased.
- Bequests. Gifts of personal property to a beneficiary.
- Guardianship of minor children. The ability to make arrangements for children under 18 or dependents.
- Probate. The process in which your executor has to prove and register your will.
How effective is a will kit?
The precise wording of a will is a specialised task best left to the professionals. The best free will kits provide you with enough instructions to make sure you conform to the strict legal requirements needed and, remove the possibility of ambiguity that's sometimes found in home-made wills.
Keep in mind that a will kit is only effective when completed properly and in full. So, be mindful to fill out all necessary sections and questions and thoroughly check the document to make sure you haven't overlooked anything.
Do I need a lawyer for a will?
Whether you draft it yourself from scratch or use a will kit, you don't need a lawyer for your will to be valid. You can, however, get it checked by the Public Trustee or a solicitor to make sure you've included everything you need.
Again, for complex financial and family situations the use of a lawyer is recommended. Getting the right legal advice upfront could save your loved ones in the future and make sure your will is valid and your wishes are carried out correctly.
How do I write a will?
While the rules for a will vary across the states, there are some common requirements for a valid will. These are:
1. Your personal details
You must be at least 18 years of age or married for your will to be considered a legal document. Make sure your full name, current address and identification details are all written correctly.
2. Mental state
Clearly state that you are of sound mind, memory and understanding and that you are revoking any other wills that you may have completed before.
3. Executor and beneficiaries
You'll need to appoint an executor and at least one beneficiary. Keep in mind that the role of executor can be time-consuming and onerous so make sure to choose someone responsible who is up for the task. You can also appoint a substitute executor just in case.
4. Signing and witnesses
Your will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses, neither of which can be a beneficiary or your spouse. Both witnesses must then sign the will in the presence of you and each other.
5. Keep it safe
File your will carefully in a secure place and tell those involved where they can find it. It is also a good idea to keep a list of the legal documents you have and where they can be found. You don't need to lodge or register your will with anyone for it to be valid.
Where to get free legal documents and templates like a will kit
Given how important it is for you to have a valid will prepared when you die, there are several options available to you. Here's where you can find some online:
- Australian Seniors. Paper-based will kit with clear instructions that is suitable for a simple will.
- LawDepot. An electronic version that puts your entered instructions into a printable will.
- LawPath. An online will kit option that lets you preview the draft as you progress.
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