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Understanding a Will – The Basics

This blog entry is specifically aimed at those making a will for the first time. For people in that situation, nothing beats getting professional assistance from a law firm specialising in the area of wills and estates, such as Craig Jensen Lawyers. However, it’s good for anyone new to the topic to understand the basics. Reading this simple summary might even raise a few further questions you want to ask your will lawyer.

The Concept of a Will

A will is a legally binding document detailing what is to be done with a person’s property, money and other assets following their passing. It usually lists who should inherit that person’s estate, who they want to act as the legal executor of the will, and possibly who they want to be the guardian(s) of their children/carer(s) of their pets. A will may also give instructions regarding the person’s intended funeral arrangements.

Who Can Make One

Generally speaking, anyone who is over the age of 18 years and “of sound mind, memory and understanding” (to quote the Queensland Law Handbook) is eligible to make a will. To expand on that second part, the person must have the ability to comprehend all of the info contained in the will and what it will mean in practice. Which brings us to…

What Sort of Information it Should Include

A will must assign each of the person’s assets to a beneficiary, whether an individual or charity. There may be conditions attached, which is an example of when things can begin to get complicated and you really need the services of a will lawyer. Along with this dividing up of the person’s estate, the will should contain the relevant contact details of each of the nominated beneficiaries.

In previous sections, we mentioned the requirement of a legal executor and the possibility of specifying intended funeral arrangements. Those must be detailed in the will, too.

When it Becomes Legal

After it has been signed by the person and two witnesses (not beneficiaries), the will becomes legal. Depending on local laws, it does not have to be dated. However, this is obviously recommended.

The Correct Way to Update it

It’s quite possible a person may be required to update their will at some stage, e.g. when there’s a significant change to their assets or an intended beneficiary passes away. Updating is basically the same as drafting, except using the existing will as a starting point – unless the person wishes to make a whole new will. An amendment to a will is known as a codicil, and has to be signed and witnessed. Marriage automatically revokes a will!

When friends or family try to force an older person to change their will, this constitutes elder abuse. It is a crime and must be reported as such. Doing everything through a will lawyer hopefully reduces the likelihood of this awful situation.

Seeking Professional Help with Your Will?

Visit Dr Craig Jensen Lawyers. We are specialists in family law, conveyancing, and wills and estates. Based in the Brisbane suburb of Parkinson, we offer expert advice and assistance, backed by decades of experience. Email us at, phone (07) 3711 6722 or fax (07) 3711 6733. Alternatively, submit an online enquiry here.

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