Make a will? We'd rather get our teeth pulled

Top things to consider before writing your will

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Why making a will should be top of your to-do list

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Getting a filling, having a needle jammed in your arm and cleaning the bathroom are all tasks most of us would put off if we could.

But surprisingly many Aussies would rather visit the dentist, donate blood or do household chores than spend time making a will.

That's according to a survey for Victoria's State Trustees which found four in ten respondents (44 per cent) would rather do chores, go to the dentist (30 per cent) and donate blood or get a needle (27 per cent) before creating a will.

The survey of 1000 Australians aged between 18 and 64 commissioned by Victoria's State Trustees also found while almost all (91 per cent) agreed it's either very important or somewhat important to have a will, more than half (58 per cent) currently don't have one in place.

State Trustees' Executive General Manager of Trustee Services, Michael Spiegel, said despite its importance, creating a will is still low on the priority list for most people.

In fact getting a health check, renewing a passport or driver's licence, organising tax, reviewing super or health insurance, arranging car servicing, home repairs and renovations were all considered more important things to do than making a will.

"No one likes to think of death or dying, which can put people off creating a will. Some people believe they don't need one or it's too hard or expensive to do, and often people don't think about getting one until something unexpected happens or their circumstances change," said Mr Spiegel.

The survey also found the main reason Australians don't have a will is because they haven't got around to it yet (48 per cent) and 38 per cent said they don't know where to start.

Respondents with a will (42 per cent) said their main motivations to create one are to decide who receives their assets (52 per cent), reduce stress for loved ones when they're gone (51 per cent), have peace of mind (46 per cent) and to make a difficult time less difficult for others (37 per cent).

When it comes to being buried, most want to be cremated (40 per cent), with more than a quarter (27 per cent) claiming they want to be buried in a cemetery, while 14 per cent said they want their ashes to be scattered into the sea.

Mr Spiegel said while things like choosing who to gift sentimental items to can be quite straightforward, there are a number of other aspects that are sometimes disregarded when people create a will.

"Thinking about death is not something that people like to do. As a result, people often overlook important elements, especially if they have complex circumstances like a previous marriage, a self-managed super fund or they plan on excluding someone from their will who would expect to benefit."

He said Do Your Will Month, which runs throughout March, is a good time to create or update your will.

Here are his tips on essential things that should be considered when it comes to creating a valid will.

Complex or simple?

Recognise if you have complex circumstances that might affect your will. Life isn't always straightforward, so the first thing to consider when writing your will is if your situation is complex or simple. This will ensure that your wishes are correctly documented.

Circumstances that are considered complex include; excluding someone from your will who would expect to benefit, previous marriage, divorce, or other difficult family situations, proving for a beneficiary with special needs, having a self-managed super fund or being a company director.

Categorise your assets

Categorise all of your assets, including cherished and sentimental items. One of the most important things to consider is your assets and who will receive them. It can be helpful to categorise items, making note of their approximate value and if there is any mortgage or loan attached to them.

If you have a property, make a note of where the certificate of title is as this can be expensive and time consuming to replace.

For larger assets like property or vehicles, you need to note if you own the asset by yourself or within someone else as this affects how they can be dealt with in your will.

Don't overlook smaller items, including those with significant personal or emotional value. At State Trustees, we often have grandparents and parents leaving sentimental jewellery or other family heirlooms to children or other loved ones.

Appointing an executor

Appoint an executor and include the details of your accountant or financial planner. Appointing an executor is a major consideration when creating a will, as the executor is the person or organisation who is responsible for carrying out your final wishes and managing your estate.

We recommend appointing someone who is a beneficiary to your estate who can remain neutral and avoid any conflicts of interest. If there is no one suitable, you can nominate someone like State Trustees as your executor.

To make things easier for your executor, ensure that you include the details of your accountant or financial planner so they can be contacted after your death to confirm financial information.

Beneficiaries and bequests

Consider any beneficiaries and bequests, including charities. Beneficiaries are any persons, charities and organisations that will benefit from your will.

This could be in the form of a cherished or sentimental gift or a share in your residuary estate. Anyone, including minors, can be named as a beneficiary.

Another consideration is any charities you want to assign as a beneficiary or make a bequest to. It is important to ensure that you note the ABN of the charity when creating your will to avoid any confusions.

Funeral arrangements

Writing your will is also a good time to include your preferred funeral arrangements so you can ensure your loved ones and executor are aware of your final wishes.

This includes everything from how you want to be buried, any specific requests for your funeral or if you are registered as an organ donor.

Enduring power of attorney

The final thing to consider is preparing an enduring power of attorney which allows you to appoint a person to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make them yourself.

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