What is a Will?

A Will is a written document that sets out what you want to happen to your property (your ‘estate’) after you die. It gives instructions for the person or organisation distributing your property about how this is to happen.

Who can make a Will?

A Will can be made by anyone aged over 18, as long as they have the mental capacity to understand what they are doing.

A person under 18 can only make a Will if they:

  • are married
  • get a court order to authorise making a Will.

What can you leave in a Will?

Your estate includes any property you own at the time of death, including cash, savings and investments.

You can include in your Will:

  • assets, such as houses, cars, money, shares, cash
  • rights and powers, such as the right to appoint the trustee of a family trust
  • specific belongings such as jewellery, books, photos – if you list specific items make sure they are easily identified.

You can also include other matters, such as:

  • how you would like your remains to be dealt with
  • organ donation
  • who you would like to act as guardians of your children (although the court makes the final decision).

What can’t you leave in a Will?

Some assets do not pass from the deceased to another person through a Will. Examples include:

  • property owned as joint tenants – called ‘passing by survivorship’
  • assets from your superannuation or insurance fund – you usually nominate a beneficiary when you take out the policy
  • assets that are held in family companies or trusts – although under your control, you do not actually own these assets so they are not directly distributed according to a Will. The Will must pass the control of the company or trust to trustees or to some other beneficiary.