Making a will
A will is a legal document that says what you would like to happen with your money, belongings and other assets (your estate) when you pass away.
Your will names who you want to give your estate to (your beneficiaries) and who you would like to administer your estate when you pass away (your executor).
A will also lets you:
- name one or more guardians for your children
- establish a trust to provide for your children or a person with a disability
- preserve your assets
- give money to charity and philanthropic organisations such as the Queensland Community Foundation.
Why you need a will
You need to plan for the future. Having a valid will is the only reliable way to ensure that your estate goes to family or friends of your choice after you pass away.
Having a valid and up-to-date will can help reduce stress for your family and friends, limit the costs to administer your estate, and lessen the possibility of disputes over your estate.
What if I don't have a will
If you pass away without a valid will, you pass away ‘intestate’. This means:
- your assets will be distributed according to the Queensland laws of intestacy talked about in Part 3 of the Succession Act 1981
- there is no guarantee that your assets will be distributed as you would like
- your family or friends may not be provided for as you wish
- it may take more time and money to finalise your estate.
Who can make a will
To make a valid will, you must be at least 18 years old, and of sound mind, memory and understanding.
To be valid, your will must be:
- in writing
- signed by you in front of 2 witnesses, both of whom must be over 18 years old, cannot be visually impaired and should not be included as beneficiaries in the will.
The Supreme Court of Queensland can sometimes approve a will being made for someone who cannot legally make a will themselves.
When to update your will
You can review your will as often as you like. You should review your will at least every 3–5 years to ensure it still reflects your wishes and circumstances.
You may need to update your will if:
- you get married
- you start a de facto relationship
- you start a civil partnership (previously called a registered relationship)
- you get divorced or your marriage is annulled
- you end a de facto relationship
- you end a civil partnership (previously called a registered relationship) or it is voided
- your children or grandchildren or any other persons you want to include as beneficiaries in your will are born
- your assets or financial circumstances change
- any person named as a beneficiary in your will pass away
- any person named as an executor, trustee or guardian in your will passes away or becomes unable or unwilling to act due to age, ill-health or any other reason
- you want to change your beneficiaries, executors, trustees or guardians named in your will
- you retire
- you are affected by a natural disaster
- you make a valid arrangement with the trustee of your superannuation fund to pay the proceeds of your superannuation into your estate.
If you get married or start a civil partnership, your will is officially cancelled by that marriage or civil partnership, except where it makes a gift to your spouse or civil partner or nominates them as an executor, trustee or guardian, unless your will is shown to have been made with marriage or a civil partnership in mind.
Divorce does not officially cancel your will, but it cancels any provision made in favour of your former spouse, as well as any appointment of that former spouse as an executor, trustee or guardian.
Ending your civil partnership or finding that your civil partnership is void does not officially cancel your will, but it cancels any provision made in the will in favour of your former civil partner, as well as any appointment of that former civil partner as an executor, trustee or guardian.
Getting help to make your will
The Public Trustee of Queensland provides a free will-making service to all Queenslanders.
Some Queensland Community Legal Centres also offer advice about wills and estate planning.
For more information
To learn more about executors and wills, read: