When it comes to Wills, people generally assume two things - firstly, you need a lot of assets to warrant making one, and secondly, when you die your assets and estate automatically passes to your partner and/or family. Neither of these assumptions are necessarily true.

Who should make a Will?

Anyone who is 18 years and older can make a Will, however a person under this age may make a Will if they are (or have been) married or in a de facto relationship.

As soon as you have assets worth over $15,000 (e.g., in your bank account or in your KiwiSaver), you will need to have a person appointed to oversee your estate to close your accounts and withdraw the funds after you die. This person is known as an executor.

In the absence of a Will - and therefore an executor appointed by you - someone will have to apply to the High Court to appoint an administrator to deal with your property. This can be a costly and an impersonal undertaking, but perhaps more importantly, what happens to your estate is dictated by the provisions in the Administration Act. It may well be that your estate is divided between your partner and children but in some circumstances other family members may have a legitimate claim.

How do I make a Will?

While there are online versions and "do it yourself" tools freely available, we recommend that you do consult a lawyer. This will help ensure that the Will is signed properly and deals with the right technicalities. Your lawyer can also help advise on your various options and what needs to be in place to ensure your wishes are implemented.

Updating your Will is a relatively easy process to reflect a change in your circumstances.

What do I need to include in my Will?

The starting points for you to consider are:

  • Who do you wish to appoint as executor(s) of your Will i.e., people who will administer your estate? Your lawyer can help to advise who might be suitable.
  • Do you have any specific gifts that you want to make (e.g., chattels or monetary gifts to friends or charities)?
  • If you have children or dependants, who you would like to appoint as their guardian upon your death.
  • Who would you like the rest of your estate to go to?

Once you have your Will, it's important to review it every few years, or if your circumstances change e.g., you have a child. This will ensure your Will keeps pace with your wishes throughout your lifetime

While we like to think that time is on our side to get our affairs in order, life has a habit of being somewhat unpredictable. Having an up to date and watertight Will ensures your decisions about how you want your property dealt with when you die and who will see your wishes are respected.

An initial telephone call with a lawyer may be the smartest thing you ever do.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.