Talking about our mortality is scary, awkward and a little bit morbid, to say the least. Most of us would rather do – well, anything else – than think about what could happen in the event that a parent or anyone we love faces an illness or an accident. But preparing a Will sets a fixed plan in motion for when the time comes, so the people you love don’t have to make those tough decisions for you down the line. Yep – the D word is scary, but to quote Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy in Star Trek Beyond (2016) – “Fear of death is what keeps us alive”.
So – wondering how to best approach the topic with your parents? It helps if you understand the kind of information you need to collect first.
What is a Will and why is it so important to have one?
If you’d like a say in what happens to your assets after your death, you will need a Will. A Will is a legally binding document that spells out your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets and the care of your minor children and pets. Without a Will in place, your estate will be distributed in line with the Administration and Probate Act 1919. At present, over 50% of Australian adults fall into this category, so their best bet would be to make a Will to ensure that their wishes are met. (Hey, this is pretty heavy stuff, but we’ve tackled quite a lot so far. More down below.)
When’s the best time to write a Will?
A Will can be written at any time, provided the Will-maker is over 18, although there are exceptions to this. Generally, if someone is expecting their first child, has children, owns property or other assets, or has recently married or divorced, then it’s a good idea to get started. It’s also a good idea to make a will as you enter your twilight years.
Why are my parents avoiding the Will-writing process?
Hmm. Have you ever asked your parents about their wishes after death, only to be met with endless eyerolls? Us humans are a superstitious lot, so your parents might think that writing a Will = telling the universe that they’re ready to die. Or, they might not want to deal with the bureaucracy of death until they’re in their senior years.
Like any kind of paperwork, it’s really easy for parents to just leave it for their future selves. But sometimes, it’s their families and loved ones who are left picking up the pieces during an already stressful time. So, if your parents are professional eye rollers at the slightest mention of the word Wills, then you could reassure them that preparing a Will doesn’t mean they’re inviting death to their door. Rather, it’s avoiding all that unnecessary stress for future you. It’s all about that reframe.
Ok. I’m ready to have the conversation. Where do I start?
We’re glad you asked. Here are some questions we’ve prepared that relate to property and intellectual property. We recommend adding them to the agenda for your next family dinner.
- How should we handle your property when you die?
- Do you have any valuable items that you want to be handled in a special way?
- Where are your most important documents?
- Do we have access to all of your digital records? Where can we find sensitive information like usernames and passwords if needed?
Wait – don’t you need a lawyer to draw up a Will?
Nope. You can actually get your legally valid Will in as little as 15 minutes here.
Ok. Another thing. The word ‘Probate’ is thrown around a lot. Care to explain what it means?
Definitely, but we’ll also give you a quick ‘Executor 101’ lesson while we’re at it.
When a person dies and leaves assets, usually it’s up to the executor of a person's Will or the closest next of kin (where there is no Will) to finalise their affairs. Probate is the legal process that validates the Will. When you receive a grant of probate, the court is legally recognising the validity of the Will and the executor, who’s responsible for the estate and its assets.
Being an executor of a Will generally involves:
- Collecting or gathering all of the assets
- Paying debts (if any)
- Distributing the assets to the entitled people
Of course, this doesn’t always require the Court’s involvement, but in some cases, you may need a grant of probate or letters of administration (collectively referred to as grants of representation) before things can all swing into action. Arranging probate is often super complicated, but our in-house lawyers can fast-track and simplify the process for you and your parents.
Hold up – could I be an executor of my parents’ Wills?
You could, but you don’t have to be. As part of the discussion with your parents, they might advise who the executor will be. It can be a partner, spouse, lawyer, trustee or the person’s adult children … So yes, it could be you. One thing’s for sure – your parents should make sure they choose someone who they completely trust.
What if the role of executor just isn’t for me?
Now is a good time to discuss with your parents whether or not you actually want the role of executor in the first place. There’s quite a bit involved if you say yes, and it definitely isn’t for everyone, so there’s no shame in turning it down. Here at Willed, we always recommend that Will-makers chat with the person they want to nominate as executor, before actually doing so. If, when the time comes, the primary executor isn’t up to the task, the Will-maker will have nominated backup executors. So if it’s a *hard pass* for you but your parents won’t budge, then don’t stress.
Here at Willed, we now offer professional executor services - more information and the ability to nominate a professional executor can be found when you reach that step of the Willed Will-writing process.
Look – we know there are 101 things you’d rather be discussing at the dinner table than Wills, and we recognise that death can be an emotionally charged topic to discuss for people at any age. But once you start the conversation with your parents, you might find that all they needed was a little push to note down their final wishes and sign on that dotted line. Who knows, your parents might even find the Will writing process to be a freeing experience. Now that you’re armed with all of this useful info, all you have to do is gather your parents, make them dinner and start the conversation.
We keep it legal, but easy.
So when the time comes, we’ll help you through the murky terrain in simple terms. You can learn more about us and our services here.