What will happen when you die? Why should you make a will? Do you even need one? We overview the key issues and options in Making a Will, including the easiest ways to make your own will.
Do you even need to make a will?
This is an important question to ask, and the answer will be a personal decision. In our opinion, if you have a family then you absolutely should make a will.
Have you decided how you want your property and possessions to be distributed if you were to die? Have you thought about who should take care of your children? If you own a home, have you thought about how the mortgage would get paid? If you have step-children, or your kids are grown and have kids of their own, have you thought about how your assets would be divided?
Your “Will” provides your written instructions about what to do with your estate when you die, how you want your dependents (partner and/or children) to be cared for; and what parts of your estate will go to which beneficiaries.
Why is it important to incur the effort and expense of a Will? Well, this is one of the most important documents that you’ll ever create and sign.
If you die “intestate” (i.e. without a Will), then the Administration Act specifies how your estate will be distributed after your death, which may not be as you truly wished, or even would have expected. Family and friends may then experience significant frustration, stress, delay and costs, especially in the event of a legal claim against your estate.
This isn’t something you would want your family to suffer, while they are grieving.
If you have possessions, property and dependents, then you should make a Will. You should also revise your Will on any significant life change — getting married, divorced, moving in with a partner, or having more children. At a bare minimum, it is wise to revise your will every 5 years.
How to Make a Will
Asking a close ‘friend’ to just write out a Will for you is probably not the best idea! Having a lawyer create a Will for you can be a very expensive experience (although for some families this is a necessary option, see more below).
And somewhere between the nose-bleed-inducing legal option and the we-really-don’t-recommend-this ‘homer’ version lies the DIY Will. This option should get you a legally binding Will for under $50, and is definitely the option we recommend.
Here’s several different options for making a Will, depending on how much you want to spend, and how complicated your finances are:
1. Buy a ‘do-it-yourself-will’ online.
An online do-it-yourself Will is by far the most popular way of getting a straightforward will done quickly and cheaply. The Wills you buy online are simple to fill in and legally accurate. Best of all though online Wills cost about 10 times less than using a lawyer. This is definitely our recommended way of making a will. The best, and cheapest, option in New Zealand by far is DIY Wills.
2. Buy the do-it-yourself NZ Will Kit.
The NZ Will Kit is available from all good online bookstores. Just fill in the blanks on the template forms, and no lawyer is required. The NZ Will Kit has been used by 1,000s of Kiwis.
3. Contact the Public Trust for help.
They may be able to assist you by preparing your will for free. You must meet the income criteria for a Community Services card, and you make the Public Trust your executor and trustee. You can check out the Public Trust online.
4. Contract a lawyer to draw up a will.
If you choose this option, you do need to understand that this will be, by far, the most expensive way to draw up a will. However, for some families (eg. those with managed Trusts, blended families, families with businesses, or large financial interests, and those with international assets, or other complicated financial affairs) the protection afforded by a lawyer will be well worth the expense. For this option, make sure you take with you:
- A detailed list of all your property (including land, houses, furniture, jewellery, bank accounts, shares, and life assurance policies)
- A list of full names, ages and addresses of the people who make up your family
- A detailed list of people and charities you wish to leave property to
- Any trust deed or relationship property agreement you’ve made
- Name of the ‘executor’ (a responsible and trustworthy person)
- Decisions regarding payment of liabilities (mortgages, debts, overdrafts)
- Name of the preferred guardian(s) of your children under 18 years
- Name of a trusted and responsible person who will assume ‘enduring powers of attorney’ to manage your care and your property in the event you become incapacitated through illness or accident.
For more information on making a will, check out the New Zealand Law Society’s Guide or contact the Public Trust on 0800 371 471 for a free copy of their Wills & Enduring Powers of Attorney Know How Guide.
For more expert advice on protecting your assets, check out our Family Finances section.