Never a bad time to make a will

Date: May 23, 2011

While there is a popular misconception that people only need wills when they reach a certain age - the birth of a child or retirement are popular milestones - the reality is that every adult should have a will.

A properly-written, up-to-date legal document is a wise idea at any age and should be updated whenever you experience a personal or financial development.

The point of a will is to help your loved ones - friends and family - be prepared in the event of a random or sudden tragedy.

A common perception is that wills are only necessary if you have valuable items or numerous possessions, but this is simply not the case.

If you do not yet have a will, even a simple legal document can outline your wishes to your family and friends. And if you already have a document in place, you need to make sure it remains updated to reflect your current situation.

Occasions where it may be prudent to update a will include any change in personal circumstances - marriage, divorce, separation or remarriage, as well as buying or selling a home and the birth or death of a loved one.

Professional circumstances - including employment, redundancy or setting up a new business venture - can also necessitate an update.

Your legal documents will also need to be revised should there be any changes in the estate laws - and should be assessed periodically to ensure they represent an accurate reflection of your relationships and intentions.

One financial adviser commented recently to the Sydney Morning Herald that another time when you may wish to enlist the services of a wills and estates lawyer is ahead of a planned move to an aged care facility.

Paul Intagliata remarked to the newspaper that sooner is always better when it comes to estate planning, adding that it is often adult children who seek out legal advice on behalf of an aging parent.

While you are drawing up your will, you may also wish to speak to your lawyer about appointing a power of attorney.

This individual can take charge of your property and financial matters if you are unable to do so - either temporarily or in the event of tragedy or infirmity.

It may also be wise to appoint an enduring guardian - an individual who looks after your medical care if you are unable to do so - and your lawyer will be able to advise on how to go about this process.