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5 things to think about when writing your will

While everyone knows it is important to have a will, it can be hard to know where to start. Having an up-to-date will makes everything easier for your loved ones and means your assets and taonga are distributed as you wish, and without unnecessary delay.

Here is what you need to consider when writing your will.

1 – Who is writing your will

The first thing to decide is who will write the will. The best choice will depend on your budget, level of experience and the complexity of your estate.

  • Visit a lawyer
    Most lawyers create wills for their clients. As you need to use a lawyer when you purchase a home this is often a great opportunity to get your will done as well. Some lawyers provide will packages and some charge by the hour, so depending on the complexity of your will it may be worth shopping around.
  • Trusts
    Many trusts will help you write your will for free which is a great service. They can come with a heavy administration fee – so make sure you know all the details first.
  • Do-it-yourself
    There are several DIY options, from booklet style kits to online templates. Make sure you do your research so your will is legally sound.

Whoever you choose to write your will, make sure key people know where to find it when it is needed.

2 – Beneficiaries

In short, you need to decide who is going to get your stuff, also known as your estate. Your estate encompasses individually held assets, such as property, cars, Kiwisaver and other investments. Jointly owned assets pass to the co-owner, and do not become a part of the estate.  

There are two types of beneficiaries to choose for your will – primary and contingent. The primary beneficiary is your first choice to inherit your estate, such as your spouse. The contingent beneficiary is the next option, if the primary beneficiary has died or cannot be located, such as children, a parent or a sibling.

3 – Bequests

While you choose a beneficiary to inherit your estate, you may also wish to give gifts or a sum of money to others as well. This is called a bequest.

A bequest could be a donation to a charity, a sum of money to someone who isn’t a beneficiary of the will, or a specific item, such as jewellery or art, that you wish to go to a particular person. You can also bequest your body to science (you need to have forms signed by yourself and an immediate relative) and you must bequest any firearms you own to someone that holds a firearms license.

4 – Guardianship

Choosing guardianship for children is often the reason people write their first will. Trying to choose that person is also a reason people put it off. If your children are under 18 years of age, you need to appoint someone to make decisions for their care and wellbeing. This person is a testamentary guardian.

It is important to understand that the guardian’s role doesn’t necessarily include the day-to-day care of the child or children. They will make the decisions about how they are brought up, and by who. This means you can appoint someone whose judgement you trust and discuss with them the various options for raising your children – which can change throughout your child’s life.

5 – Financial planning

If you are responsible enough to be making a will, we hope you also have life insurance in place. In setting up your insurance you need to consider various scenarios and where this money would end up. For example, if you have given someone guardianship of your children – how will you fund that?

It is also important you understand what happens to your debts when you die, so you can include that in your planning.

This is a lot to think about, and can lead to some difficult conversations. At Plus4 we see how much easier it is on everyone when there is an up-to-date will in place, and how much harder it is when there isn’t.

We provide our clients with a template they can use to help plan their will. Using this template means you can go over it in the privacy of your own home and work out the details before you see a professional. 

If you want to discuss your life insurance, or would like a copy of our will template, contact one of our advisers today.

how to write a will

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