To ensure that your estate is given to the people that you care about when you die it is important to prepare a legal Will.
You should make a Will even if you think you have little to leave. If you do not make a legal Will, your estate will be distributed using a formula determined by the government. This formula is applied regardless of your situation.
What is a Will?
A Will is a legal document that sets out how your property is to be divided after your death. Under the Will, an executor is appointed who will look after your estate. The executor must:
- Collect all your assets
- Pay all your debts
- Distribute your estate in accordance with the terms of the Will.
A Will does not come into effect until after you die, so it is important that you think carefully about your Will.
How do I make sure my Will is valid?
The laws governing the legal requirements for preparing a valid legal Will vary from state to state. However, in all states you must:
- Have testamentary capacity, which means you must be over 18 years old and understand what you are doing
- Ensure that your specific wishes are in writing – verbally telling someone what you would like to happen is not enough, and
- Have the document signed in the presence of two witnesses in order for your Will to be valid.
Why should I make a Will?
If you do not make a legal Will, your estate Will be distributed using a formula determined by the government. This formula is applied regardless of your situation. However, if you make a Will:
- You decide how to divide your estate between family, friends and charities
- You appoint who you wish to administer your estate
- You indicate you preference as to a guardian for your children