Last Will and Testament Information
A Last Will and Testament, also referred to as a Will, is a document that you use to describe how you would like your property and possessions divided after your death, and to name guardians for any of your children who are under 18.
Why do I need a Last Will and Testament?
A Will is important to have in order to control where your money and property will go after you pass away. If you don't have a proper Will in place prior to your death, the law determines who will receive your assets.
Having a Will also allows you to:
- Appoint guardians for your minor children to ensure that they receive the best care in your absence because otherwise, the court will decide who will look after your children;
- Name a pet caretaker for your pets;
- Plan your estate and its inheritance tax; and
- Reduce stress on your family when you die.
How do I value my estate?
The value of your estate can be determined by first listing your assets, including all possessions, such as your home, automobiles, bank accounts, insurance policies, stocks, investments, bonds, and more.
Once you list your assets, you can deduct your liabilities (debts) from your assets to find out the true value of your estate. Liabilities may include mortgages, personal or student loans, credit cards, overdrafts, and more.
Who do I include in my Will?
Executor: Your executor is the person that you appoint to execute your estate plans once you pass away. The executor is responsible for dealing with your affairs, and carrying out the wishes in your Will, which is why it is important to choose someone you trust.
Your executor can be a beneficiary in your Will, but must be over 18. You may also choose to include more than one executor to represent you.
Beneficiaries: Your beneficiaries are the individuals, organisations, or charities that will benefit from your Will by inheriting property or sentimental gifts.
Guardian for minor children: If you are a parent of any children under 18, you should specify who will look after them in your absence.
The guardian you choose for your children should be capable of caring for them, and is required to be an adult (over 18).
Pet Caretaker: If you own pets, you may name a pet caretaker to look after your pets after you pass away.
Can my spouse and I have one Will?
You and your spouse may create what is referred to as a Joint Will, or Mutual Will, where you create one Will for both of you. When one spouse passes away, the surviving spouse retains the assets. However, the surviving spouse cannot make changes to the Mutual Will after their partner has passed away.
Some spouses write Mirror Wills, in which each spouse has their own separate Will, but they are nearly identical to each other. This type of Will leaves everything to the other spouse.
How do I execute my Last Will and Testament?
For a Will to be considered valid, it needs to be executed in front of two witnesses. The witnesses also need to sign it.
You must adhere to the following criteria when executing your Will:
- Be of sound mind;
- Have your Will in writing (typed is fine);
- Execute it voluntarily; and
- Be over the age of 18.
Where should I store my Will?
After you have executed your Will, you should store it in a safe location. This can be with your solicitor, your bank, or a probate service. Inform your executor where you have stored your Will.
Can I make changes to my Last Will?
While it is advised that you create a new Will if you plan on altering your existing one, you may also use a Codicil to add or modify clauses. If you wish to create a new Will, you would first need to destroy your current one, notify any parties involved, make a new Last Will and Testament, and then sign and date it properly for it to come into effect.
You may wish to update your Will after the following events:
- Marriage, separation, or divorce (marriage or divorce may invalidate any previous Wills);
- Birth or adoption of a child;
- Birth of a grandchild;
- The death of a beneficiary, guardian, or executor;
- You change your mind about the Will's contents, and wish to add or remove a beneficiary;
- A change in your financial situation, such as incurring debts, or gaining assets; or
- Changes to tax laws.
Documents Related to a Last Will: