What is a will?
A will is one of the most important documents you will ever sign. It is a legal document setting out who gets part or all of a person's property when they die. Your property is called your 'estate'. A badly written will often lead to delays and disputes. It is best to use a lawyer if you can, rather than writing your own will.
Why make a will?
If you do not leave a will, your property will be distributed in a way laid down by the law. When a person dies without leaving a will, they are said to have died intestate. Intestacy also occurs when a deceased person has left a will that only deals with part of their estate, or the will is not valid.
What do I do to make a valid will?
A valid will must be in writing and must be signed and witnessed correctly. It should also be dated at the time of signing.
What sort of property can I include in my will?
In your will you may leave any part of your property (including personal items, real estate or amounts of money) to particular people. While it is not necessary to list every item of your property, your will should deal with all your property. The best way to do this is to use expressions like 'all of my property of whatever kind' or 'all my remaining property of whatever kind'.
If your will fails to deal with all your property, any property not dealt with will be divided among your relatives according to law. This kind of division might not be what you wanted.
Can I make arrangements for my children in my will?
If you are the parent of a child, you may wish to appoint someone to be the guardian of that child after your death. You can do this in your will, but not all such appointments are effective. Get legal advice.
Can I change my will?
Yes. You can change your will as often as you like. The best way to change it is to make a new will.
A codicil is a legal document that is used to alter something in an earlier will. People may use a codicil instead of making a new will. A codicil must comply with all the legal rules that apply to a will.
- State your full name and address on your will.
- Make sure the will is clearly dated.
- State the full name and address/es of your executor/s.
- Add the attestation clause. This is the special statement in the will confirming the will maker signed in the presence of two or more witnesses and that they also signed in the presence of the will maker.
- Never attach or pin anything to a will.
- Never erase any part of a will.
- Keep your will in a safe place and make sure your executor knows where that is.
Legal Aid WA does not draft wills. You may be able to pay someone to get help drafting a will by contacting:
- Artists in the Black
Information and a step by step guide to drafting a will for Aboriginal visual artists.
- Citizens Advice Bureau – guide on how to make a will
Reviewed: 4 October 2022