What is a will – why do you need one?

A Will is a document that records your wishes for what happens to your belongings when you die.

If you are 18 or over and would like things that you own to be given to someone in particular after your death, you should have a Will. This is especially important if you have children.

You can also make plans for the financial needs of those that are dependent on you, for example your children. You can indicate your wishes for who will care for your children, however this is not binding.

Your Will should be written by a lawyer, who will then safely store the original document for you. You should let your immediate family and Executor know who is holding your Will.

An Executor is the person who “executes” your wishes under your Will and this can be anyone over 18 that you trust to carry out your wishes. Most people pick a friend, family member, their law firm or a combination of the three to be their Executor.

A beneficiary is the person who receives a gift under the Will. You can choose anyone to be a beneficiary. You can also choose to leave something to a charity if you want.

It is very important to have a Will if you have assets. If you die without a Will there are laws in place to deal with your property but it may not be divided in the way that you would like.

You can change your Will whenever you want and you should review it every few years to make sure it is up to date. Major life events such as having children, buying property or the death of your Executor or one of your beneficiaries also mean you should review your Will.

Differences between states

Western Australia

If you marry after you have made a Will, your marriage cancels your Will unless you have made it in contemplation of marriage. If you get divorced or your marriage is annulled on or after 9th February 2008 your Will is cancelled unless a contrary intention is expressed in your Will or there is other evidence showing this intention.