What should be put into a will

Date: Nov 01, 2012

If you are thinking about estate planning but aren't sure where to start, you first have to take stock of what it is you actually own.

Apart from the obvious like the family home, other things like investments, stocks, superannuation all need to be listed in your estate. While you are compiling such a list, it's a good time to actually check what the values are for those investments - after all, you want to provide as much information to your family as you can and knowing how much things are worth can be very helpful.

It's a good idea to value your property every couple of years as the worth of investments can fluctuate with market conditions.

In addition to investments and property, think about collections or things of expense, such as your crystal glassware or any valuable artworks that you own. Talk with your family about who would like what and if you have children, talk with your lawyer about dividing up your property equally amongst them.

Sometimes people leave money or an item of value to a charity organisation or religious group. So if you have an affinity for a charity, consider talking with your lawyer about making a donation in your will as there are tax issues surrounding doing so, but a legal professional can assist with this.

Many families have been stung with debts that have not been paid in the lifetime of the deceased, meaning their surviving family members have subsequently been obliged to pay them. If you do have debts, be sure to leave instructions on how they can be paid out of your estate. The last thing you want to leave your grieving family is a debt that has to be paid.

If you have young children, you may wish to consider leaving their entitlements in a trust so that they can access it when you believe they are of an appropriate age. You might also want to consider leaving a sum of money to their guardians so that they have some capital to add support with the extra costs of your children.

Talk to experienced wills and estate lawyers for professional advice about how to best approach drawing up a will and writing it to tailor your personal circumstances.