Most of us prefer not to think about what happens when we pass away, but it’s important to make sure your assets go to the right place after you die.
A Will is a legal document that sets out how you want to distribute your assets when you pass away. And although estate planning can be complicated, it doesn’t have to be a painful process. Nicole Platt from Griffin Legal joined MDFA for a webinar to answer some of the most common questions about making a Will, including how you can become one of MDFA’s cherished Visionary Partners and help save the sight of generations to come.
Do I need to make a Will?
If you pass away without a Will, your assets might not go where you want them to. When people die without a Will – or in legal terms, die intestate – your assets are allocated by the law in your state or territory, which may not be the way you’d like to distribute your estate.
The best way to make sure your assets go where you want them to when you pass away is by writing a Will. Even if you think you don’t have much to give, dying intestate can leave a messy situation for your loved ones.
“Who needs a Will? Everybody.”Nicole Platt
“If you are over the age of 18, you should have a Will. Even if you think you don’t have any assets, you should have a Will. And if you know anyone who’s over the age of 18 and who doesn’t have a Will, tell them they should do it now,” Nicole told the MDFA webinar.
How can I make sure my Will is legally binding?
There are four main things that make your Will valid:
- Capacity: you’re over 18 and you have a sound mind
- Intention: you intend to make a Will, without any undue pressure
- Knowledge and approval: you understand what’s actually in your Will
- Formalities: your Will is signed and witnessed by other people
Will kits are a solid, affordable option if you have a simple situation, such as leaving all your assets to one person. But if your wishes are more complicated, a lawyer who specialises in estate planning can draft a Will that makes sure your assets go to the right place – especially in case someone contests your Will.
“The clearer your document, the better it is drafted, the more protection you’ll have for your family after you pass away,” Nicole said.
“Find a lawyer you’re comfortable with… you want to make sure your Will is properly drafted and that you’re comfortable with the results.”
What’s an executor?
Naming an executor – the person who administers your estate – is also a requirement of a Will. Choose someone who you trust, and who is likely to live longer than you are. You should also name a back-up executor, just in case.
The executor can be a beneficiary of the Will, such as one of your children. Some parents name all of their children as joint executors in the interests of fairness – but Nicole doesn’t recommend this, because it’s an administrative headache.
Who can I leave my assets to?
Firstly, it’s important to draw up a list of assets you want to consider including in your Will. That means real estate, land, business assets, cash, shares and valuables like cars and jewellery. But some assets can’t be included in your estate. For example, if you jointly own a house with someone else, the ownership may pass on to them.
You can leave specific assets as gifts, or a percentage of your estate, or a residual bequest, which is whatever’s left over after your other wishes have been fulfilled. You can leave gifts for family, friends or even an organisation. That’s why it’s crucial that your Will clearly lays out exactly where you want your estate to go. “That’s usually where issues arise with families, when the Will’s unclear,” Nicole said.
How can I leave a charity in my Will?
We understand that your loved ones come first. But as well as family and friends, you can also include organisations – such as charities – in your Will.
You can even add specific conditions so that the charity uses your bequest exactly as you wish. For example, you can stipulate that your gift is only used to invest in research, or to fund support services.
“That’s quite often why different charities will have specific wording to say, ‘If you want to leave it for this purpose, use these words. If you want to leave it for that purpose, use these words. If you want us to have discretion, use these words’. So it all comes down to the actual charity that you are leaving to,” Nicole said.
How can I become a Visionary Partner?
By including a gift to MDFA in your Will, you are joining a family of honoured supporters that we call Visionary Partners. This treasured group shares a common bond: a vision for a future where no one loses their sight to macular disease.
We know that family and friends come first, and we encourage you to discuss your decision to leave us a gift in your Will with your loved ones. A bequest to MDFA is a meaningful way to make a lasting impact on the eye health and the lives of future generations. When you leave a gift to MDFA, you join Visionary Partners like Faye Grant, whose generous bequest is now funding vital, innovative research. The Grant Family Fund is a key part of MDFA’s Research Grants Program, supporting early-career Australian researchers working on innovative and creative projects that are breaking new ground on the quest to find a cure for macular disease.
Learn more about leaving a gift to MDFA in your Will.