Drafting a will
A will is a written record that comprises of your last wishes relating to any property that is owned by yourself at the time of your passing (referred to as your estate).
An estate includes real estate, personal belongings, cash, savings, and investments. In case of you owning property or joint bank accounts with someone else, your will ultimately determine what will happen to these assets and will inevitably transfer to the surviving co-owner when you are deceased.
A will is deemed valid when:
- It is done in writing.
- Signed by two present witnesses when you are signing the document.
- Dated during the time of signing, and
- Made from your own free will without being pressured by anyone else.
A will can be amended whenever you prefer to do so particularly in circumstances where:
- You got married or divorced.
- You have children.
- You bought large assets such as real estate.
- Your circumstances have changed, for instance when a relative that was nominated as a beneficiary of your estate has passed away before you.
What will happen if you don’t have a will?
In case of you passing away without having a will, the law will decide who gets your assets. This is referred to as dying “intestate.” This will result to having the state where you live in to distribute your assets according to a descent and distribution scheme. But if you are dying without a will and you have no living family members left at your death, the state becomes the owner through a process called “escheatment” and will use your assets to support education.
It may be helpful to contact a family lawyer to help you with setting up a sense of security in the event of something unexpected happening to you.
Drafting a testamentary trust when you’re setting up a will gives you the opportunity to allocate a portion of your funds from your estate more efficiently and can be of great benefit to your beneficiaries when it comes to tax minimisation and asset protection, especially when you’re leaving funds of property to minors under the age of eighteen or for example, relatives living with disability. A qualified lawyer or advisor can oversee the inheritance planning and manage their finances on their behalf.
Enduring Guardian and Powers of Attorney
These are legal documents that gives a person of your choice the power to make decisions on your behalf if you’re not able to.
You must be over eighteen and mentally capable of appointing a guardian or attorney to understand factors like:
- What type of powers the guardian will have?
- What kinds of decisions they will have the authority over to make on your behalf?
- The consequences the appointment may have on you, and
- How you can amend or cancel the arrangement in the future.
It is imperative that you seek legal advice before entering in such arrangements, as these documents are powerful by nature.
The types of appointments you can make are:
General Power of attorney – Someone that can make legal or financial decisions for you as well as performing tasks that include doing your banking, signing legal documents or buying or selling real estate when you’re away or unavailable.
Enduring Power of Attorney – Someone is performing the functions mentioned above but on a long-term basis when you’re no longer capable of doing so, due to mental incapacity.
Enduring Guardian – Someone to assist you with daily decisions such as healthcare options or where you’ll be living, etc.