A will is a vital estate planning document. Ideally, the document prescribes the estate settlement procedures after you die. Below is an article detailing the essential elements of a will.
The testator is the individual who writes the will. As a general principle, wills should comply with specific regulations. Otherwise, they become invalid. Your will should meet the following legal requirements;
- The document must consider prior estate management documents. For instance, your prenuptial agreement could include a clause detailing property settlement after death.
- The testator can only include assets in their name as they write the will.
- The document should not include contradictions that make it challenging for beneficiaries to understand the testator's wishes.
- At least two testators should notarise the will. If the testator writes another will, they must nullify the earlier wills.
Beneficiaries are people who receive proceeds from the estate. In Australia, the testator can leave their estate to anybody, including family members, friends, charities, or close business associates. However, some beneficiaries have a legal right to the testator's estate. For instance, the testator's kids (even those from previous marriages or those they might not know) can approach the courts if they were not included in the will or feel that the will does not adequately provide for them. In this case, they ask the courts to nullify the will. There are several ways to deal with contesting a will. For example, the beneficiaries would consider an out-of-court agreement with the individual disputing the will. Alternatively, both parties could make their arguments in court and wait for a judge's ruling.
The executor is a trusted individual who administers the conditions of the will. Ideally, the executor gains absolute control of the estate after the testator's death. They pay estate taxes and debts before dividing property according to the testator's wishes. As a testator, you should choose an executor willing to pull all stops to act in your best interest. The best approach would be to ensure the will has two testators to avoid disputes among the beneficiaries if the primary executor is unavailable. In some cases, your beneficiaries could ask the courts to dismiss the appointed executor. It is especially so if they feel that the executor is mismanaging the estate funds or intentionally delaying the will execution process.
You should consult a wills and estate lawyer when drafting your will. The professional ensures the document meets the legal standards and gives insights into how you can leave a lasting legacy with your will.