A matter of words

Grandparents thinking about  future generations with bequest wording in your will.
Whether you call it a ‘gift’ or a ‘bequest’, what matters is getting the wording right in your Will.

When it comes to leaving a Will that distributes your estate, the intention is always to leave it to loved ones and the organisations that mattered the most throughout your life. Yet, knowing how to do so while ensuring the Will is valid and legally-binding can cause many sleepless nights. 

For many, the biggest concern is knowing how to get the wording right – like knowing how and where to use the terms ‘gift’ or ‘bequest’.

“This is something I’m regularly asked about by clients, who are fearful that if the wording is not right, their Wills might be at some risk – as indeed they can be,” solicitor James Ballantyne of the Ballantyne Law Group says. 

“The simple fact when it comes to the words ‘gift’ and ‘bequest’ is they’re almost interchangeable. There really is little difference,” says James. 

Watch your language

As the way language is used in society continues to change, so too has the use of words in some areas of the law. When it comes to Wills, James explains, there has been a shift in recent years towards more easy-to-understand language.

“Lawyers have traditionally loved using anachronistic language but there's been a move to plain English wherever possible, so that people know what they’re dealing with,” he says. “Using 'I give the gift of my house to…' in a Will is simple, straightforward language that everyone can understand more so than putting the word ‘bequest’ in there.”

“Most importantly, when using ‘I give a gift to …’, you can be confident that a court is going to understand the meaning, if it ever comes to that.”

A gift that gives

Determining what gifts to make and to whom are the aspects of creating a Will that can take the most time. The assets of the estate need to be evaluated and beneficiaries considered. This part of the process, as final wishes are determined, should never be done in a hurry.

“Your objective is usually about taking care of the people and the organisations you really care about, and to help look after them into the future,” James says.

In the case of leaving a gift in your Will to an organisation whose good work you admire, the correct wording they prefer for you to use can usually be easily found by checking their website. In the case of The Kids’ Cancer Project, the wording can be found here.  

Peace of mind

Seeking professional advice about the wording of your Will can be one of the best investments you make, not only for your own peace of mind, but also the wellbeing of your loved ones as they sort out your estate after you’ve passed.

Even if using a do-it-yourself-will-kit, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission recommends engaging a lawyer look over it can still prove essential to ensure everything is in order. The Moneysmart website advises, “If you use an online Will kit, get it checked by a solicitor or Public Trustee.” 

Seeking legal as well as financial advice from professionals who specialise in Wills makes good sense in terms of having your estate ready to be divided, tax agent Suellen Hansen of Marsh Tincknell Chartered Accountant advises. 

“It also makes it easier if everything is in the right and clear order when the time comes for your family and your solicitor to work out the content of the Will and how you wanted it to be carried out,” she says. “This can be the time when you discover just how much the words in the Will really do matter.”