The law governing wills in Australia differs between states, but there are some common things that make a will valid. ‘valid’ means that it’s recognised by the court as legal and binding.
Some examples of things that make a will valid:
- The person making the will has to be ‘of sound mind.’
- It’s the last will made by the deceased. (The deceased didn’t later replace the will with another.)
- The will is written in a language the deceased understood or was known to speak (for example, a will could be ruled invalid if the will is in English, but it was shown that the deceased didn’t have a good understanding of English when the will was made.)
- The deceased signed the will.
- The will was witnessed by two different people.
- The witnesses to the will weren’t beneficiaries of the will. (If a beneficiary also witnesses the will, this could render it invalid because a beneficiary is not an independent witness).
‘Beneficiary’ is the name for someone who ‘benefits’ from a deceased estate, meaning receiving a part of someone’s assets after they die.
What does ‘of sound mind’ mean? It means that the person is sane and rational. Or put another way, it means that they have the capacity to understand their decisions, including the consequences of those decisions.
An example of someone who is not of sound mind to make a will might be someone with dementia, or someone who was on prescription drugs and drinking alcohol when they signed.
Often we think of an ‘estate’ as a mansion set on a large piece of land. But it’s also the term given to someone’s assets when they die. The term ‘deceased estate’ means all the assets that someone owns at the time of their death.
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