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Writing your next life chapter? Here’s one thing you should be thinking about

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Starting a business? Having a baby? Selling a business? Moving house? When you hit a big business or life milestone there’s one thing many people forget to check off their list: estate planning.

Making sure you have a Will and that it is updated to reflect any changes in your circumstances is absolutely critical for protecting yourself, your family and your business.

When you die without a Will you lose control over the distribution of your assets. It is better to take the time to review what you own and designate beneficiaries early to get ahead of any issues down the track.

Initially it is important to know how to properly execute a Will. Before a Will can be executed you must take inventory of all of your assets, including the following:

  • Real property
  • Personal property
  • Bank Accounts
  • Trust Accounts
  • Life Insurance Policies
  • Investments
  • Retirement Funds

Once you have taken account of all that you might want to distribute to friends, family, your spouse or your favorite charities, it is time to memorialise your wishes. A Will can be prepared without the assistance of a solicitor, however distribution of assets can be complicated and involve legal issues that you might not be aware of. Therefore, it is highly recommended you seek professional counsel when creating a will.

For a Will to be legal these basic requirements must be met:

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

In addition, before executing your Will it is important to name an Executor or Executrix to assist in making sure that your wishes are carried out as directed. This person can be your spouse, a family member or a close friend. The most important aspect of choosing an Executor is that it is someone you trust with the responsibility of making sure that your assets are properly distributed according to your stated wishes.

Once your Will has been properly executed it is important to properly store the document. Copies of your Will should be in the possession of the following persons;

  • Your Solicitor
  • Your Executor
  • One additional family member

If you meticulously complete the above recommended steps then, unless your circumstances change, you can then rest assured that your Will is valid and can be promulgated by the Court. However, you do need to remain aware that any major change in your life circumstances can affect your will and the distribution of your assets. Under the following circumstances you should revisit your will and consider making the necessary and appropriate changes;

  1. If you marry
  2. If you divorce
  3. If you have children
  4. When your children turn 18 years of age
  5. If you purchase a new real property
  6. If there is a change in health circumstances
  7. If there is an acquisition of additional assets i.e.: a new business, a new investment account
  8. If you sell or lose an asset
  9. Upon retirement
  10. If your beneficiaries pass away

Any life, business or financial milestones should trigger you to review your Estate Planning process. It’s only then that you can make sure you’re protected.

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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