This week is Wills Week from September 7 to September 11th.
Your will is possibly the single most important piece of paper you ever sign for you and your family. If you have been intending to organise your will for some time but haven’t gotten around to it, now is a great time to make it happen. Diana Clement, Freelance Journalist, reported recently in the NZ Herald that a massive 48% of Kiwi adults do not have a valid will.
What is a will?
A will is a legal document that allows you to say how you want your estate to be dealt with when you die and leave last messages for your loved ones. Your estate is essentially everything you own and any debts you owe when you die.
A will can relieve financial and emotional strain on your family after your death and help minimize the likelihood of a dispute about your estate. It is important to note that it is not just money, there are your personal possessions, and debts that form your estate.
Different milestones in life may create the need to have a will such as having children, moving in with a new partner or taking out life insurance.
Your will allows you to specify who is responsible for carrying out your wishes. This person is known as the executor of your will. A will can also contain wishes regarding guardianship of your children as well as the specific wishes you have around cremation, burial, and funeral arrangements. Having these all documented means it is a lot easier for those left behind to ensure your last wishes are carried out.
Who can make a will?
Anyone of sound mind who is at least 18 years old can make a will. A person under 18 may make a will if they are (or have been) married or in a civil union or de facto relationship. Others under the age of 18 can make a will if given approval by the Family Court or if they are in the military or are away at sea.
When should I make a will?
You should get on to creating your will as soon as you can. Even if you don’t think you own major assets, you can quite quickly build up possessions that can have monetary or sentimental value to you and to others.
You may have some money in a savings account, vehicles and boat, furniture and household items, a good stereo or home entertainment system, a life insurance policy, a KiwiSaver account, some jewellery and so on. A will allows you to decide what will go to whom, even if your possessions have sentimental rather than financial value.
How do I make a will?
Because of the importance of your will, the law says it must be made in a prescribed manner. Do-it-yourself kits do not always cover all the aspects you need to consider, so you should get legal advice about how to make your will.
We have a will information form available here (put link) to help you think through some of the areas to cover when creating a will.
Why should I see a lawyer?
Though you choose what to say in a will, the law specifies how you should say it. If you do not comply with the law, your will – or parts of it – may be invalid.
A lawyer can:
suggest how you can best and most fairly provide for your family and dependents;
express your wishes so they have the legal effect you intend, and ensure your will is properly drawn up and valid;
tell you about alternatives you must consider (including who may challenge your will and why – this can be a complex area of law);
advise on the appointment of suitable executors;
advise on and form trusts for your beneficiaries;
explain how relationships might affect your will;
explain extra powers available to your executors and trustees that you might want to include in your will and advise on the appointment of suitable people to take on these roles.
When you see your lawyer, take along:
a list of your assets and debts;
a list of the names of people and charities to whom you want to leave things;
any digital information and passwords or the whereabouts of this information;
a list of questions you want to ask; and
any trust deed or relationship property agreement you have made
Whether you are wanting to make your first will or wish to update an existing will, we can assist you in this process. It’s as easy as filling out the form here (use link) and emailing it to us for review. Or alternatively, book a time with one of our friendly solicitors who will explain everything to you so that you understand the process every step of the way.
We will discuss your wishes and will tailor your will to your specific needs.
Contact us here to book a time to see either Braden Matson or Breanna Fuller.