A Testator is the name given to a person who makes a Will. In Australia a Will can be made by any conscious/mentally stable person over the age of 18. If you are under 18 but married, you can also make a Will.
There are many procedures that must be followed when making a Will. For example, the Will must be witnessed by at least 2 people and it should be written. Witnesses should also sign each page of the Will and the same pen must be used for the Testator and the witnesses. Use of a different pen is a common error people make when attempting to create their own Will. Not only may your Will be considered invalid, it can create huge problems for your loved ones who are left to try to prove to the Court that the Will was signed by you.
Choosing an Executor can be a difficult task. After your death your Executor becomes the ‘gatekeeper’ of your Estate. You should ensure that your Executor is a person who you trust and believe will do the right thing for your beneficiaries. Note that your Executor can also be a beneficiary in your Will.
Once you have completed your Will, you need to keep a copy for yourself and advise your Executor where the original is held. In Victoria, Wills are not required to be registered. If you wish to register your Will, the Victorian Will Bank (State Trustees) is one option where you can keep it safe. If your Will is prepared by a solicitor, it is usual that they will keep the original in a deeds safe and provide you with a signed or unsigned copy, for your records.
Your Will needs to be up-to-date and in line with changes in your circumstances. Even if you have a Will, it should be regularly revised. There have been many a time when a person’s Will is inadequate and their assets have gone to someone the deceased did not want to benefit.
If you get married any previous Will you have becomes void. If you are divorced, any reference to your former spouse is automatically removed. It is especially important that you review your Will after a separation as a previous Will may leave your Estate to your former partner. You should also review your Will and Estate Planning documentation if you receive or inherit a windfall as your financial circumstances have changed.