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Q: My partner and I want to make a Will because we recently bought a house together. We have no children and decided we don’t want any in the future. We have siblings and one parent on each side, but our family situation is a little complicated.
Assuming we will out-live our parents, we are a little stuck about what we want to happen with our estate after the last surviving one of us dies.
A: Thinking about how to make a Will when you do not have children can be tough, because every family dynamic is different. The best place to start is to ask yourselves the below questions:
- What would you like to leave for your spouse?
- Are there any specific gifts you wish to leave?
- Are there any dependents or anyone else that would expect to receive an inheritance from your estate?
- Who do you consider your ‘family’?
- What if your nominated beneficiaries pass away before you?
- What sort of legacy do you want to leave?
1. When you make a Will, what would you like to leave for your spouse?
If you decide to leave everything to each other (as the last surviving partner), you should consider what you would like to happen with your portion of the estate. Will things be split equally between your family and theirs after the last surviving partner dies?
2. Are there any specific gifts you wish to leave when you make a Will?
Understand that when you or your spouse pass away, the surviving spouse is entitled to update or make a new Will in any way they choose. This may mean the deceased spouse’s family could be cut out of benefiting from your estate.
Are there any specific gifts, like jewellery, valuable collections/collectives, or sentimental items you wish to leave someone if your partner survives you? For example, you might gift your nephew or niece a specific amount of money or a particular item like a piece of jewellery.
You may think about leaving a legacy or gift to your intended beneficiaries while you are alive, if you are capable and the circumstances are suitable.
3. Are there any dependents or anyone else that would expect to receive an inheritance from your estate?
Aside from leaving your estate to your spouse, do you have any other dependents or anyone else that would expect to receive an inheritance? You have nieces or nephews that might be entitled to receive an inheritance under relevant laws because of the nature of your relationship.
When you make a Will, it is important to be aware of the relevant laws in your state about who might be eligible to claim against your estate and what impact this may have (if any) on the way you prepare your Will.
On the other hand, even though other significant people in your life may not have a legal claim on your estate, you might still consider gifting them something in your Will. Of course, every family dynamic will be different, but it’s something to think about.
4. Who do you consider your ‘family’?
Think about who is it that you consider to be your family. Parents? Siblings? Grandchildren? Nieces or nephews? Close friends?
Then ask yourself some questions: Should any of your family receive gifts or a significant portion of your estate? Will they all receive something from your estate?
You might consider if some of your family members might currently be financially better off than others. Should the decisions you make in your Will consider this?
5. What if your nominated beneficiaries pass away before you?
If your nominated beneficiary passes away before you do, how their portion of the estate is distributed is your choice. You might write in your Will that their portion is left to their children (and/or family). Or instead, you might indicate that it should be distributed to the remaining beneficiaries.
For example, you leave your estate to your siblings and one of them passes away before you, would their portion be left for their children? Or would you like it distributed between your surviving siblings? Consider those options when making your Will.
6. What sort of legacy do you want to leave, when you make a Will?
When making a Will, the most important thing to think about is what sort of legacy you want to leave. Is setting up a university fund for your grandchildren, nieces or nephews important to you? Are there any charities or organisations you are passionate about and wish to leave a gift (or your entire estate)?
Think about how you’d like to contribute to future generations.
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