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Making a Will

August 12th, 2011 -

Making a Will is one of the most important things you will ever do. The reason is that if you were to die without a Will, you die ‘intestate’ and your property will be divided among your family according to a standard legal formula, so it may not go to the people you wanted it to. (Under New Zealand law, the spouse/partner of the deceased receives the personal chattels, the first $121,500 and one third of the estate. The balance is shared equally by the children of the deceased). A valid Will is the only way to ensure that your estate is disposed of in the manner you wished it to be done.

Making a Will, or amending an existing Will, is fairly simple and relatively inexpensive. For a small fee, a lawyer can draw up a Will for you in the correct legal format, ensuring that it will be a legal and binding document after your death. This will prevent anxiety and expense for your loved ones, who may have problems in ensuring your wishes are carried out. Your estate may also be frozen for some time, if the Will is not a proper, legally binding document.

Here are some typical issues that your Will should cover:

  • It should state that it revokes any previous Wills
  • It should clearly name your executors (people you choose to administer your estate). Executors can be beneficiaries under the Will and you can appoint your spouse, partner or children
  • It should mention all your money, property and possessions, either by naming them or including them in the ‘balance’ of your estate
  • Beneficiaries (the people you are leaving things to) should be clearly identified with their full names and their relationship to you. Many people remember charities who have helped them or that they cared about, in their Will.
  • Specific items that you want to leave to specific people should be clearly stated
  • It should state what must happen if your beneficiaries or executors die before you do
  • It must be easily found after your death

Two people over the age of 18 must witness you signing your Will. The witnesses must also in turn sign the Will in your presence, and there should be a declaration in the Will confirming that you have signed the Will in their presence. Witnesses cannot be your executors or people you intend to leave any of your estate to. Codicils (supplements to a Will) can be added to an existing Will if you need to make minor changes, but you should never make alterations on the original document.

In your Will you can also state what funeral arrangements you want, and it is best to make sure that the person who will arrange your funeral is aware of these.

These days it is possible to make a Will online with the Public Trust and with several law firms. Some lawyers and the Public Trust do this for free if they are named as the executor of your Will.

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