More than half of Australians don’t have a will, which means those left behind after your passing may be left to purely speculate on what your wishes may have been. They may not always get it right, and family rifts may be the result of that.
To potentially avoid the risk of disharmony and to ensure your family understands your intentions, writing a will can be one of the most important decisions you make in life. However, before you get started, take a moment to consider the value of hiring a family lawyer or wills and estates lawyer to work with you. It can be crucial for some of the following reasons.
Restructure a Current Will After Relationship Changes
Your entire life can change in a split second, with relationships ending and new ones being formed. A family lawyer can be one of the best people to consult after a significant relationship change due to their experience with restructuring wills.
They can look at family assets, estates, and existing wills, and suggest pivotal changes to reflect this new chapter of your life.
Confirm That a Will is Valid
You may have been of sound mind when you started thinking about who you wanted to receive your assets after your death, but proving it can be another matter entirely. If you intentionally left a legal heir out of your will, didn’t fairly share assets, or your will didn’t conform to all legal requirements, there’s a chance that it can be contested after your death.
If this happens, your entire will and your wishes may be nullified, meaning that the courts can decide who is entitled to your property and possessions rather than what you had outlined in your will.
This is where hiring a family lawyer can be so important. They can draw up a will for you that reaffirms the fact you were of sound mind and that all decisions you made regarding your assets were done so with a lawyer being sure of this fact.
Ensure Your Will Meets Legal Requirements
There are a number of requirements that are needed to ensure that a will is legal. For example, it must be signed and dated by the person who made it, and witnessed and signed by two adult witnesses. An experienced family lawyer can ensure that all the criteria are met, ensuring that your final wishes will be carried out as indicated.
A family lawyer can also provide clarity on whether your wishes for your property are allowed by law, and answer any questions you have about providing some family members with larger shares than others.
With no question marks over the legality of your will, the family members you leave behind may be saved from the stress of having to confirm this fact.
Make Sure Your Will is Complete
It can be challenging to summarize your entire life in a single document. When you’re trying to write your will on your own, it can seem next to impossible. However, with the help of a lawyer with experience in the creation of wills and family dynamics, it doesn’t have to be.
It’s the job of experienced lawyers to make sure you have covered all bases with regards to what you own, who your legal heirs are, and whether you have considered your debts, will executor, funeral arrangement provisions, and special bequests.
While you might only be thinking of large assets like properties and vehicles, your family lawyer can remind you about smaller assets, such as that special first-edition book your niece might like, or the classic train set you promised your son.
Lawyers can also help you ponder the more intimate details to include, such as whether you’d like to donate your organs, give your body to science, whether or not you’d like to be embalmed, and your cremation or burial preferences.
The more details you include in your will, the fewer question marks there may be over your wishes. You may then enjoy peace of mind knowing the chance of family members contesting your will and creating family rifts may be smaller.
Reduce the Risk of Contesting
There is no guarantee that family members won’t contest your will, but creating it through all the appropriate legal channels with a lawyer may dramatically reduce the chance of that happening.
When you are making choices about the division of your assets, lawyers can help you strengthen your reasoning and leave very little grounds for someone to challenge your wishes. For example, they might encourage the use of a no-contest clause, which means an heir may forfeit their share of the estate if they challenge the will, even if they’re entitled to do so.
All states and territories in Australia have different rules around who can contest a will, but typically eligible people include spouses or former spouses, children, grandchildren, dependents, and registered caring partners.
Understand Property Legalities
Not every property you own can be easily handed on to someone else in your family, and a lawyer can walk you through why that is.
For example, you might jointly own a property with someone who is still alive, which means you can’t give away a share that you don’t own. Some legal factors may also stop you from distributing your own share or even possessions within a shared property.
A family lawyer can help you understand the rights of a trust beneficiary and whether you can distribute insurance policy funds to whoever you please. Your chosen lawyer may ask questions about whether your policy has a designated beneficiary or whether you can name one in your will.
To avoid legal matters such as these becoming a problem for your loved ones after your death, consult an experienced family lawyer to help you navigate potential pitfalls when creating a will.
Cover Family Issues
Families can be complicated, which means taking care of everyone in a legal document like a will is generally not an easy task by yourself. With the help of family lawyers, you can navigate the legal intricacies when it comes to inheritance and challenging family dynamics.
They can help you become familiar with how divorces can change a will, the issue of guardianship and adoption, and what you need to consider when you have minors or even pets. These are small things you may not think about in everyday life but can become incredibly important in death.
Creating a DIY will may seem easy, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy for your family when you pass. Rather than guessing at the requirements needed to make a will without a lawyer, a legal professional experienced in estate law can help you cover all bases while also potentially reducing the risk of your will being contested. If you haven’t yet looked at writing a will, now might be the right time to consult lawyers from State Law Group who can help you get started.