Boss Lady

Pandemic reminds business women to update their wills

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The coronavirus pandemic is prompting an increasing number of people to ensure their affairs are in order. While we know that the probability that we will die as a result of coronavirus is thankfully low, the impact of the current circumstances have made many people stop and think about their wishes for the end of their life, and how to protect their loved ones.

If you don’t yet have a Will, as a businesswoman now is a good time to put one in place. If you already have a Will, consider when was the last time you updated it? People often overlook that a Will is not a “set and forget” document. There are several milestones in your life which will require your Will to be updated such as:

  • If you marry
  • If you divorce
  • If you have children
  • When your children turn 18 years of age
  • If you purchase a new real property
  • If there is a change in health circumstances
  • If there is an acquisition of additional assets i.e.: a new business, a new investment account
  • If you sell or lose an asset
  • Upon retirement
  • If any of your beneficiaries have a disability
  • If your beneficiaries pass away

What happens if I die without a will?

When you die without a Will you lose control over the distribution of your assets. They will be passed to whoever is considered to be your closest family such as your spouse or children. Unless your family fits a traditional model, complications easily arise. It’s better to take the time to review what you own and designate beneficiaries early to get ahead of any issues down the track.

What should be included in a Will?

Your Will should cover all of your assets such as:

  • Real estate
  • Personal property like family heirlooms
  • Bank Accounts
  • Investments and interests in Businesses or Companies

Your Will should account for how these assets are to be distributed to your spouse, family, friends, charities or other beneficiaries. You can also set out your wishes for the care of your children.

Often unknown to many people is that your Superannuation Funds and Life Insurance Policies frequently fall outside of the intentions set out in your Will and many funds have their own rules about how these valuable assets pass on to others. So make sure you investigate these separately.

What about an executor?

It is important you nominate an Executor or Executrix to manage your assets and their distribution according to the wishes you lay out in your Will. This person can be your spouse, a family member or a close friend, but needs to be someone you trust.

What makes a will legally binding?

For a Will to be legally valid these basic requirements must be met:

  • You must be 18 years of age or older
  • You must put your will in writing i.e.: handwritten, typed or via electronic document
  • You must sign your Will
  • Your Will must be witnessed by at least two persons, preferably persons who are not beneficiaries of the document
  • You must fully understand all of the components of your Will. This is called Testamentary Capacity

With social distancing rules in place the requirement for two witnesses can be a significant challenge for people. You may need to consider putting in place an informal Will during this time which states your intentions but is not executed, to provide peace of mind. While a Will can be prepared without legal assistance, seeking advice from an experienced estate planning lawyer can help avoid many foreseeable issues.

Too often estate planning is something we put off. Without a sense of urgency, it’s easy to ignore the risks of not having an up-to-date plan in place. With many of us now being more aware of our mortality than ever before, the one positive is that it may help spring us into action and take the steps to ensure our families are protected with a current estate plan.

About Kristy Hatcher

kristyh@thebusinesswomanmedia.com'

Kristy Hatcher is an experienced solicitor who joined Owen Hodge Lawyers in 2016. She has over 17 years legal experience spanning a broad range of areas including Family Law, Criminal Law, Civil and Commercial Litigation, Wills and Estates, Mortgages, Leases and Business transactions. In 2006, Kristy’s volunteer work at the Macarthur Legal Centre was recognised with a nomination for an Award from the Law & Justice Foundation of New South Wales.

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