Wills & Estates

Why Make a Will?

Article Index

Why Make a Will?

Although some people choose to make their own will and it  may seem easy enough, the law around wills can be complex. There is more than a century of case law and several legislative instruments that affect how a Will should be written and interpreted.

In making a homemade Will, you risk not drawing it up properly or not expressing your intentions clearly enough. It’s also easy to create a tax liability which your beneficiaries will have to pay. A homemade Will will is more likely to be contested, which means the whole process of giving away your assets could end up in very expensive court proceedings.

When you need a Will, it’s important you have it drafted by someone who understands the law and legal drafting and can advise you on the best way to make sure your assets end up where you want them to. At Southern Legal we have extensive experience in preparing Wills. 

What is a Valid Will?

A will is a legal document which sets out who will receive your property and possessions when you die.

When you have a valid will, you give yourself the best chance of making sure your assets go where you want them to. So you should always make a will especially if you have a family or if other people are financially dependent on you.

To be valid a Will generally has three requirements:

  • It must be in writing (whether handwritten, typed or printed)
  • It must be signed, and
  • Your signature must be witnessed by two other people who also need to sign the will.

But even where you’ve met these three requirements, your assets can’t be distributed immediately because a court may need to grant probate first. For details on probate visit our dedicated pages for probate matters.

What happens if you die without a will?

Dying without leaving a valid Will is known legally as ‘dying intestate’, there is a standard formula used to distribute your property and possessions. Whilst this may mean all your assets will pass to your spouse or children, it is not necessarily the case.

The situation becomes much more complex if you have a legal spouse and a de facto spouse (ie you’ve separated but not divorced and have a new unmarried partner), if you have children from different relationships, or if you die with no spouse and no children.

The court’s formula usually only lets your family members inherit from you. So having a valid will is vital if you want to leave gifts to friends or charities.