There are many reasons why people write Wills. Often, these boil down to wanting some control over the life they leave behind after their death. From how their property is divided to who will take care of the details, a Will can help people provide instructions to your family and friends.
However, a Will may not be the best way to address all your end-of-life wishes. There are some matters that Wills are great for covering, but others that may be better addressed in other ways. So which topics are a ‘yes’ for Wills, and which may belong in different legal documents? Before putting pen to paper, you may want to consider these five areas.
Yes: Choosing who inherits what
Deciding how to divide your estate is the most basic purpose of a Will. This can include bank accounts, your home, other properties and any vehicles you may own when you pass away. Once all debts (if any) are repaid, the remaining assets may go to just about anyone you choose.
Wills can also be used to make special gifts to specific people. Maybe you want your granddaughter to inherit your grandmother’s handstitched quilt, or would like a neighbour to have your collection of sports memorabilia. The gifts listed in a Will can be almost anything, even objects that hold only sentimental value.
No: Life insurance policies with a nominated beneficiary
Life insurance might not be considered part of a person’s estate. Often, this is because a beneficiary has already been chosen to receive the payout when the policy was purchased. In these cases, the life insurance company pays the beneficiary directly, and the money does not need to go through your estate.
Generally, life insurance payouts are only paid to your estate if you do not name a beneficiary to the policy. Without the name of someone to send the money to, the life insurance company usually deposits the money into your account, where it will be distributed along with the rest of your assets.
Yes: Naming a legal guardian for your children
Parents with children under the age of 18 typically name a legal guardian in their Will should their children be left without a parent. They might also create a trust to manage any money their kids will inherit when they reach adulthood.
You may not have children (or they’re already grown), but there may be other people you want to choose a guardian for in your Will. You may need to plan for anyone who relies on you for financial support or medical care. This could be elderly parents, a disabled partner or an adult child who will never be able to care for themselves.
No: Medical care instructions
When writing a Will, some people may decide to also make plans about their future medical care. Serious accidents, coma or diseases that impair your mental capacity (like dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease) could mean that others will need to make decisions that affect your health and wellbeing.
Planning for this possibility may be wise, however it might not be appropriate to include in your Will. A Will is generally for what happens after your death, not what comes before. An advance directive may be a more appropriate way to record your medical care instructions.
Maybe: Funeral wishes
Drafting a Will might also lead you to consider your funeral wishes. Writing down any ideas you may have could help remove some of the stress your family may feel when the time comes. However, like your medical care instructions, it might not make sense to include these in your Will.
A person’s Will is typically not read until after the funeral. It’s possible that irreversible decisions may have been made, such as cremating the remains, before your Will is even located. Instead, you might want to discuss your wishes with a trusted family member who will likely be part of the funeral planning. You could also write these in a separate document and give them a copy for when the time comes.
Think about your future
Momentum Life customers can receive a free legal Will Kit to help them begin the estate planning process. Take out a Funeral Insurance policy with us to receive this step-by-step guide, created to help New Zealand residents write a simple, legally-binding Will. Contact us for more details.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is of general nature, and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs or seek professional advice, where necessary.