Avoiding Estate Disputes: Six Things to Remember When Making a Will

Estate disputes are common across Australia. In most cases, they are filed either due to a lack of a valid will or a disagreement due to the terms present in the will.

It’s important that you create a will if you want your belongings and assets to be distributed among your heirs in a particular manner. The presence of a will can reduce the chances of estate disputes and make sure all your loved ones get their rightful share in the assets.

The Importance of a Will to Avoid Estate Disputes

Here’s why it is important to create a will:

  • It allows a smooth transaction of all your assets.
  • It reduces the chances of estate disputes.
  • It helps keep your family closer.
  • It allows you to secure the future of your children by nominating a guardian, if your children are under 18.
  • It allows you to explain how you wish the estate to be divided upon your death.

You have the right to keep a will confidential until your death. However, it must be made without force with full understanding and you must not be under the influence when preparing it.

  1. Draw a Valid Will to Avoid Estate Disputes

It is important to create a formal will so that its validity cannot be challenged in the court.

For a will to be valid, it must be prepared by you personally, under no influence or force. Plus, it should not be informal, i.e: must be drawn under the supervision of a lawyer in the presence of one or more witnesses.

It should also be properly signed and stamped.

  1. Be Careful When Choosing an Executor

You will have no say on who gets to administer your estate if you do not have a will. This is why it is important to name one or more executor. They are handed over the responsibility to distribute your estate as stated in the will.

Executors usually work with lawyers to make the process legal and seamless. It must be mentioned that an executor is not necessarily a professional. He or she can be anyone from your spouse to your friend.

The executor should ideally be unbiased and without any personal interest in the matter. Otherwise, the beneficiaries may file an estate dispute and take the matter to the court.

Moreover, the executor must be professional in the dealing and able to handle the matter with panache. In case you have no full faith in one executor, the law allows you to select more than one person for the job. Plus, you can also clearly define the capacity of an executor.

  1. Choose a Guardian with Care

A guardian is different from an executor. It’s important to name one if you have children under the age of 18.

In case there’s no will, the court will typically appoint the surviving spouse as a guardian.

However, if you have no spouse or if you want to hire a different guardian then it is important that you prepare a will and name a guardian.

You should ideally provide guidelines for the guardians to follow and explain their role. It’s also recommended that you leave a gift to motivate the person to perform the duties in a professional manner.

The executors should also be instructed to advance money for children.

  1. Know What You Can and Cannot Give Under Your Will

You can name everything including cash, shares, pets, real estate, vehicles, art, and jewellery.

The will should also include international assets, however you may need an international will if you own property or other assets abroad.

The will should also explain your liabilities and must take into consideration the role of tenants. Plus, if you’ve given gifts then they must also be mentioned and taken away from the estate, where applicable.

However, a few things cannot immediately be made a part of your will. These include:

  • Life insurance payments
  • Property used in a business, especially if you are in a partnership
  • A Self Managed Super Fund

Your lawyer can help you understand what can and what cannot go in your will. He or she will also take care of the legal language to make sure everything goes well.

  1. Know When to Update your Will to Avoid Estate Disputes

You may have to update your will if you marry or divorce or have other additions or subtractions in your family, including children, grandchildren.

You may also have to update your will if you buy new assets or sell old ones. Plus, the death of an executor may also call for an update.

It’s important to be careful when preparing a will so that it’s not challenged later on. Contact a lawyer to know more about how to prepare a will and reduce the risk of estate disputes.

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