Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Have you made your will yet?

I was asked at lunch today if I would be doing anything interesting this evening. No, just staying and doing jobs such as finishing off my will. My statement prompted a lot of questions from the girls I was lunching with: Why was I writing a will? Was it legal? How was I doing it? Could you include last requests? We talked about it for a while and when we all got up to go back to work, two of them told me that I’d inspired them to write theirs.

Writing a will is incredibly important task. It's about you taking responsibility for your assets, your debts, your loved ones and your dependents. We’re told that you should write or make a new will at key junctions in your life – when you get married, when you have children, if you get divorced. Really, you can write a will at any time of your life and I think you should do it as soon as you have some savings or superannuation or even when you’re in a committed relationship.

Writing a will is simple, straightforward and thought-provoking. All you have to do is buy a $22 Will Kit from Australia Post and fill in the blanks. The form doesn't leave a lot of room for specifics or special requests but it covers all the basics such as power of attorney, place of burial or cremation and most importantly, it’s legal. As you get older and especially when you have dependents, you’ll need something only a lawyer can draw up for you, but this ‘beginners’ version is the best place to start.

It looks like this.

Sitting at the kitchen table last night, I got to thinking about bequests. Looking around my apartment I really thought ‘whoever wants it can have it’, but that’s not very helpful and perhaps legally not a good move. So I had to think – what do I leave my brother, what do I leave my parents? Friends, boyfriend…what possessions do I have that will really mean something and act as a post-mortem reminder of the life I lived with them? This fill-in-the-blanks will doesn’t have any room for personal messages, so one of my ‘jobs’ to do over the coming weeks is to write last letters to those people I loved most, to be sealed up and hopefully not opened for decades to come.

This might sound a bit maudlin but it isn’t at all; it’s just sensible. I may be young and have family-longevity on my side but life has no guarantees. Having a will means that should the unexpected happen, the people I love most in the world will have fewer issues to deal with and will be looked after. Ont he topic of being looked after, I learnt something at lunchtime today: I had always presumed that if you died intestate then your assets would automatically go to your next of kin. One of the girls told me this isn’t so. In the case of joint ownership of assets then the surviving owner usually takes full possession but other assets such as savings, your car, or anything you own as an individual pass to the Government to be dealt with. She’s marrying a lawyer and they own property together, I trust her statements on this.

So seriously, if you own ‘stuff’, have a nice bank account and particularly if you have a partner, write a will. You can get your basic kit for $22 from your local Post Office. It’s the best $22 insurance policy you can buy.

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