A step-by-step guide to preparing a will

BAS Agent Services in Australia
Shot of a senior woman meeting with a consultant to discuss paperwork at home

Planning ahead with will writing is important whatever your circumstances. For individuals with unmarried partners, stepchildren and other dependents and/or business owners and professionals with complex estates, will writing should be even more of a priority. 

A well-prepared and regularly updated will ensures appropriate guardianship for dependents under the age of 18 can be put into practice. A will also has the power to financially provide for all you care for, safeguard your family home and other property assets, and prevent the family disputes that can be particularly damaging to relationships during times of grief. Will writing can minimise the amount of tax charged to your estate upon your death too. 

With all this in mind, the dangers of failing to make a will are many. You will leave your loved ones open to disagreements, with contested wills not only causing emotional hardship but financial difficulties and unnecessary stress. 

Contrary to popular belief, making a will is easier than many think, especially with the right professional support and advice. Read on to discover our step-by-step guide to preparing a will.

Step 1: Understand the purpose of will writing

Your will should name who will benefit from your estate upon your death, who will look after your dependents, and who will execute these final wishes. It should also dictate what will happen if one or more of your beneficiaries should die before you do, as well as communicate any charitable donations you’d like to make from your estate.

Step 2: Value your assets and record your debts

To prepare for will writing it is important to have a clear idea of the value of your estate, this includes all your assets and all your debts. 

Your assets will include, but are not limited to, your properties, savings, premium bonds, insurance policies, pension funds, investments, vehicles, jewellery, household contents, and other personal belongings. 

The balances of your mortgage, credit and store cards, outstanding loans, overdrafts, and equity release should be recorded as debts. Remember the value of these assets and debts will change, which is one of the reasons why it’s vital to update your will from time to time long after you’ve written it.

Step 3: Stipulate who will benefit from your estate

Naming your beneficiaries – i.e. the people or organisations who will benefit from your estate upon your death – is your next step. During this stage, each part of your estate should be accounted for, whether you plan to specify gifts or give a share of your estate as a whole.

Don’t forget to consider the additional costs that may become apparent upon your death. You should choose to dedicate a proportion of your estate’s value to covering funeral costs, administration fees and taxes. You must also decide what will happen to any remaining money after these deductions. 

Step 4: Select the executors of your will

You should name an executor – or multiple executors – when preparing your will. This role should be given to a trusted family member, friend or professional to ensure your final wishes are carried out in accordance with your will. 

Step 5: Write, sign and store your will

Now it’s time to make your will official. You can use lawyers, professional will writers, charities or banks to write your will and ensure it is valid. The will should then be signed in front of independent witnesses and stored safely.

Step 6: Revisit your will regularly or as circumstances change

Your will shouldn’t just be signed, stored and forgotten about. It should be updated at least every five years or following major life events (such as the birth of a child or grandchild, acquiring a new property, or expanding your business) to ensure it suits your current circumstances.

Want to prepare a will and ensure that your estate is in order? Find out more about how Winn Solicitors can help here.A step-by-step guide to preparing a will