Wills 101: Start Here


How much detail will I need to give when I do my Will? 

As much or as little as you like. The law recognises that a person's Estate is the sum of all assets in their name at the date of their death.

How will people know what my Estate consists of when I die? 

Two words: Mind-reading. And where mind-reading fails, with a little help from Lawyers (optional), the Government and Financial Institutions.

As covered in our recent blog, the Executor is the O.G. of your Estate. They are in charge of administering your Estate after you pass away and once the original copy of your Death Certificate is released (charming, we know).

So how does one administer an Estate? 

Plainly speaking, to administer an Estate mainly means looking after the assets of the Estate until they are ‘realised’ (i.e. converted into money to form part of the Residuary Estate; or gifted to specific beneficiaries under the Will).

During the initial Estate Administration process, your Executor will be required to follow certain protocols depending on the laws of your State/Territory. These processes may include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Applying for Probate (if the total assets of the Estate are over a certain value);

  • Ensuring that the Testator’s assets are maintained until they are either realised or gifted;

  • Contacting the Testator’s financial institutions: both known and unknown.

    • Most banks have a dedicated section to Deceased Estate enquiries who – after the Executor provides evidence of their authority to act - will confirm whether the Testator held an account with them, and if so, the balance of said account;

  • Managing the bank accounts of the Testator until the Estate Distribution process has been finalised.

Generally, Executors will either follow the Administration process themselves or consult and retain Estate Solicitors to assist them.* Either way, the process of Administering Deceased Estates is covered across a wide range of industries, and rightly so, because 100% of people are expected to die one day.**

So don’t sweat the (big) stuff.

At the end of the day, you only really need to list out your specific assets in your Will if you wish to give them as a ‘specific gift’ to a particular person. If you don’t wish to leave an asset as a specific gift, it simply forms part of your Residuary Estate once it has been realised. Likewise, any bank accounts you have in your name at the date of your death will also form part of your Residuary Estate, and your Executor does not necessarily need to have the specific bank details of each account in order to complete the process (although it does save them some time if you wish to list out your accounts in a separate document).

The total value of your Residuary Estate will be distributed to whomever you have named as a beneficiary after the last of the debts have been paid (and if more than one beneficiary, in accordance with the shares you specified in the Will). 

TLDR?

  • You don’t have to list out your every asset and/or bank account in your Will - you can include as little or as much as you like;

  • This means you don't have to update your Will every time you open a new savings account or buy another investment property (we can’t relate, but hey).

  • The good news is that you don’t need to have your financial profile (whatever that is) itemised and sorted out before sitting down and starting on your Will. You don’t even have to sit down. You just need to get started.

*Any legal fees incurred are typically paid at the same stage as the rest of the Estate’s debts (e.g. bills, mortgage etc). This means that it highly unlikely that your Executor would be personally out-of-pocket if they wished to seek legal assistance during the Administration process.

**based on anecdotal evidence.