5 important documents to review regularly

Our lives are full of constant changes. Some good, some bad and some in between.

As we get older and change partners, jobs, houses and opinions, we should turn our minds to updating our legal documents.

There are five aspects of your life that you should regularly review:

1. Your Will

Your Will is one of the most important documents you will ever make and in some cases the most disputed. It requires significant thought and discussions with your solicitor to try to mitigate any potential arguments or litigation after you pass away.

Importantly, your wishes may change as you grow older. You may wish to make particular gifts to family members, friends or charities as your relationships and ideals change. It is important to review your Will to ensure that it reflects your evolving wishes and relationships.

It is particularly important to review your Will after a relationship breakdown to ensure that your ex-partner is not an executor or beneficiary of your Will. In Victoria, if you divorce from your husband or wife and they are named as your executor and/or beneficiary of your Will, the Court will sever any clauses relating to your ex-spouse and give effect to the remaining provisions of your Will. If it is still your wish for your ex-partner to be named in your Will, this must be drafted carefully to ensure that your wishes are upheld by the Court upon your death.

2. Trust deeds

If you utilise a trust such as a family trust structure, you may wish to review the trust deed every few years to ensure that the appointor(s) and trustee(s) are relevant to your personal circumstances. Often, elderly parents are appointors and it may be appropriate to appoint another appointor with them or in their place to assist with the family’s estate planning. Conversely, you may be the sole appointor and trustee and it may be worthwhile to review this depending on your personal situation. 

Ultimately, the variations that can be made to your trust deed depend on the terms of your deed and you should engage a solicitor to review the deed carefully for you.

3. Your terms and conditions

If you are a business owner or sole trader, you may rely on terms and conditions to govern the relationship between you and your clients or customers. Your solicitor will likely request to review a copy of your terms and conditions when you are trying to recover a debt owed to you or resolve a dispute between you and a client. 

The rules and regulations relating to terms and conditions and what is deemed to be fair contract terms are regularly evolving and it is very important to ensure that your terms and conditions are enforceable and are updated to reflect your current business objectives.

4. Your assets

There are multiple ways to hold assets such as property and shares. You may wish to hold your assets in a trust, in your sole name or jointly with someone else. In regards to holding property jointly, you have the following options:

  1. to hold property with someone else in separate shares and when you pass away, your share falls part of your estate; or   
  2. to hold property as joint proprietors which will mean that the property automatically is transferred to the surviving person upon death.

It is always better to consider ownership before acquiring property, so as not to attract unnecessary taxation. However, depending on your personal circumstances, the advantages of changing the way you hold your property may significantly outweigh any taxation ramifications.

5. Your relationships

It is important to ensure that you have appropriate documentation in place if you are in a relationship and you intend to keep your assets separate from your partner or intend to leave your assets to children of a previous relationship.

If you would like to discuss updating any of the documents mentioned above, please contact us on (03) 9853 0311 or [email protected]