What is a Will?

A Will is a legal document that sets out your wishes once you’ve died and may include:

  1. Any funeral instructions you may have (including whether you would like your body to be buried or cremated);
  2. The person or people you would want to appoint to be responsible for the distribution of your estate (known as your executor(s));
  3. The person or people you wish to designate as testamentary guardian(s) of your children; and
  4. How you wish your money, possessions, property and anything else you own (together called your “estate”) to be distributed after you die.

Why should I make a Will?

Death can be an uncomfortable topic to discuss, and it’s easy for a Will to fall to the bottom of your priority list. 

The situation that arises when a person dies without a Will (called dying “intestate”) can be costly and stressful for loved ones who are already struggling at this challenging time. 

When someone passes intestate, the Courts will appoint someone (usually a family member) to administer your estate, and this may not be the person you would have chosen.  Even if it is, your estate will be distributed according to a set formula, which may not take care of your loved ones as you would have wanted. 

By contrast, a Will enables your affairs to be administered in an orderly fashion, with certainty and allows you to choose people you trust to be the executor(s) of your estate.  An executor is a person that will be responsible for administering your estate and ensuring your wishes are fulfilled. 

If you have young children, one of the most important reasons for having a Will is so that you can choose who to appoint as their testamentary guardian.  This person will be able to help make big decisions for and with your children (along with any other guardians), in respect of things like health, education and welfare.

When should I get a Will?

If you own assets, you should already have a Will. If you don’t we highly recommend you put a consultation with our Trust and Estate team at the top of your to-do list.

Several events may also “trigger” the need for you to get a Will or have your existing Will updated.  These include entering into a de facto relationship or civil union, getting married (or separated), having a child, selling or purchasing a property or business or any other significant life event, including one that significantly changes the value of your estate. 

Contrary to popular belief, a Will is not a “forever” document.  For example, an existing Will will be revoked by marriage, unless it has been expressly prepared in contemplation of that marriage. For more information see How do Changes in my Relationships Affect my Will? 

We suggest that you review your Will every three to five years.  It will not necessarily need to be updated, but as health, relationships and priorities change over time, it is essential that your Will reflects these changed circumstances or that it can accurately uphold your wishes if the unfortunate were to happen.

How do I get a Will?

Our team are well placed to assist with preparing, drafting or updating your Will.  We are familiar with all criteria that must be met for a Will to be valid and if your particular unique circumstances make things more complicated, we can advise you on matters to prevent any issues arising in the future.

We have a comprehensive knowledge of all asset protection and future planning options available to you. If you would like to discuss this in more detail, please contact our Wellington Trust and Estates lawyer Andrew Stewart on andrew.stewart@morrisonkent.com or (04) 495 8921.

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