The legal formalities to make a valid will require the will-maker to sign their will in the presence of at least two people, acting as formal witnesses to the event.
Signing a will in front of witnesses fulfils a protective function. Can anyone witness or attest the signing of a will? And what must they do? Read more >>
If you die without leaving a will you are said to die “intestate”. In the absence of instructions left in a valid will, who will inherit your property? Succession law contains strict rules to deal with this problem.
Updating a will might seem a troublesome chore, but circumstances can change from the time it was made. The changes might produce unintended and unwanted outcomes in the event of death. Therefore reviewing a will is important to keep its contents in line with intentions. Regularly reviewing your will is important so it reflects your intentions.
Why make a will and what can it do? Dying without leaving a will, or leaving an invalid one, is to die intestate. Dying intestate means property left by the deceased, their estate, is distributed according to the intestacy law. The intestacy law has been prescribed by legislation as the ‘default’ rules to apply in these circumstances. The problem is that the intestacy formula for distribution may not produce the desired outcome.
Leaving a legally valid will is important for it to be effective. A will documents a person’s intentions for what they want to have happen when they die. To make a legally valid will means complying with all the prescribed legal requirements. Making a valid will according to law is important to its effectiveness. Who else needs to sign a will?
A will documents a person’s intentions for what they want to have happen when they die, see What is a will. It contains their instructions on who is to inherit their property and how, who will administer its disposal and any preferred arrangements for their funeral. If their intentions are to be legally effective, and ultimately put into effect, the will needs to be valid and comply with the legal rules.
A will is a testamentary document, often referred to by lawyers as an ‘instrument’, setting out what a person intends to have happen to their property, (real and personal), and other matters, when they die.
It is the legal way to record a person’s instructions and wishes on how they want their property distributed on the event of their death, and who is to responsible for carrying out those wishes.
Because it is to take effect only on death, a will is referred to as being ‘testamentary’.
A testamentary document or instrument is one which its writer intends, at the time of writing it, to come into effect when they die, and not before. It is where a person sets out their intentions for the distribution of their property when they die.
Intestate means dying without a will. But sometimes even if a person has left a will there may be a partial intestacy. This is when the will does not effectively dispose of all of their property. If that happens the identified property falls into the residue of the estate and distributed according to what the person’s will states about disposal of the residue, and if silent, then according to the statutory intestacy rules. Read more on dying intestate. >>
If a deceased person has not left a will or if no document appearing to be a will can be found, they are said to have died intestate.
To make a will a person must be an adult and have the required mental capacity.
A will made by a minor, being under 18, is generally invalid under State and Territory wills and succession legislation.
Exceptions relate to contemplation of marriage, or altering or cancelling a prior will. If the contemplated marriage does not take place, the will is invalid. The court may authorise a minor to make, alter or cancel a will.