How To Write A Good Will

Good will making

My estate plan is a constant work in progress. Which is what makes it good.

My estate plan is a constant work in progress.  Not because I don't have my s**t in a pile but because I don't want to just leave a will.  I want to leave a good will.

A good will plans for right now - not for some far distant, unknown future - but what life would look like if you died this week, this month, or this year. So many of us put off writing our wills because we don't just think life will change, we KNOW it will change. As your family and your situations change it's important your will is refreshed and rewritten to reflect those things.

A will that gets written once, hoping to encapsulate every possible future scenario, is not a good will.


I live with my husband and three school-aged kids. I also have two kids from a previous relationship who are now young adults. We live on a bit of land in the Adelaide Hills with a dog, a rabbit and six sheep who are expecting lambs any day now. My daughter Pearl dreams of having a horse. 

Like you, my family are my life and I want to look after them but as a busy mum and business owner I'm as guilty as anyone of shuffling an update of my estate plan off the priority list (what do they say about the builder having the worst house in the street?!). 

Unlike you, I'm constantly working with families who are left trying to honour a will that no longer reflected the dead person's life. I am helping navigate the frustrations and delays that come from wills that are 20, 30, 40 (even 50) years old, where assets no longer in existence are referred to, relationships that have long disolved are honoured, or name executors that are themselves dead. Sader still, I'm helping families traverse wills that don't reflect what life looked like for the will maker just 2, 3 or 4 years later. Because sometimes life changes fast.

So this year I made the commitment to update my will. Here are the 9 things I did to make sure my will is better than good...

1. Superannuation Binding Death Benefit Nomination

This week I posted a Binding Death Benefit Nomination Declaration to my super fund. The old nomination that was in place meant my two adult kids would lose a sizeable chunk of my superannuation death benefit to the ATO. That's not cool. So I changed it.

2. Power Of Attorney

I have revoked my old power of attorney and made a new one appointing my husband and a lawyer friend to take over, maintain or wind up my legal business if I can’t work anymore.  By appointing my own attorney, I have ensured that my clients will be looked after by someone whom I trust and who is aligned with my vision and values.

3. Advance Care Directive

I confess I have only just prepared an advance care directive for myself. I’m a bit like the hairdresser who finds it hard to find a colleague to cover her greys! Too busy making everyone else feel amazing and not looking after herself. 

By preparing my advance care directive I have set out my wishes, preferences and instructions for my future health care, living arrangements, personal matters and end-of-life plans so nobody has to guess what I want if decisions have to be made.. 

4. A Good Will

I have made a new will. In doing this I have had to reconsider several aspects:

  • New executors given that my life is more complex than it used to be
  • Current non-estate and estate assets, with debt and other liabilities
  • Digital assets including my online business assets, email accounts, social media, and other stored information such as photographs and videos
  • How I want to distribute my estate noting that my eldest children are now adults and not automatically entitled to a share of my husband’s estate if I die first
  • Potential tax implications for my estate and my beneficiaries
  • Measures I want to take to protect my children’s inheritance from themselves or third-party claims
  • Including a discretionary testamentary trust in my will for certain beneficiaries
  • My wish to be cremated and ashes scattered amongst the trees
  • Care for my dachshund Charles
  • Appointment of a testamentary guardian(s) to take care of my small kids jointly with my husband if I die first

5. Life Insurance

Now, I’m no saint. Like I said my estate plan is a work in progress - and my Life Insurance is an even bigger work in progress but I've made an appointment to make sure that I look after my family financially if I die or suffer a total and permanent disability.

6. An Instruction Manual for Executors 

I've been filling in my Dream Dead Person instruction manual. This document doesn't form part of my will but feels important to me. It sets out information my executor will need to help make decisions whilst they're managing my estate (everything from my family tree, wishes for my kids, contacts lists, user names and passwords, and information about special items I'd like to be passed on to special people).

7. Storing My Digital Assets

I've set myself up a Morty because my digital assets form part of my estate and I don’t want them to be lost forever. My farmer husband has never touched my laptop and my executors would need to be digital detectives to piece together my footprint when I’m sure they have better things to do. So I've popped everything in one secure place with instructions on what I'd like to happen to each when I'm not around.

8. Pre-paid funeral

It’s my wedding anniversary this week. When I suggested to Wayne we should celebrate 11 years by visiting the local funeral director, he wasn't very keen! But nothing says romance quite like a pre-paid funeral!

A pre-planned funeral will allow me to choose the type of funeral service I want and how much I want to spend. It will save my family anguish at a later time and also make everyone aware of my wishes. Plus this way I get to be involved in the party, even though I’ll miss out in person.

9. Estate Planning Conference

Most importantly, I’m going to bake some apricot jam cockles, invite my older kids over, sit down with them and my husband and discuss what will happen if I die first. I want to make sure that the people I love are OK after I die. I want to make sure they stay friends, rather than falling out over some unavoidable estate dispute. 

This is the hardest one on the list. It’s going to be tough, and frankly, I’m dreading it. But I know it’s the kindest, bravest thing I can do.

Wish me luck.

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