For most people, sitting down to write a will ranks slightly higher on the priority list than going to the dentist for a root canal (and usually not by much). Trying to plan for what happens to your estate can be a daunting task. You are not alone. According to research, approximately half of Australians have failed to make valid wills. At least we are ahead of the Americans, where it is estimated that sixty percent of the population do not have a will.
Why should you have a will? If you die without a will, this is referred to as dying intestate. Dying intestate will ultimately make no difference to you, but it will be a substantial burden for your family. Presumably, they will already be grieving the fact of your passing. So you don’t want to make their lives more difficult during this time by saddling them with the extra burden of dealing with intestacy. The administrative burden of intestacy is significantly higher than if you have a will – there is more paperwork, more court applications and more cost. Also, your earthly possessions – home, car, assets and personal effects – will be distributed in accordance with a set of rules established by statute. You will have no control over where your possessions go if you don’t have a will.
But saving your family the time, cost and mental anguish of dealing with the Courts are not the only benefits of making a will. Wills can secure your children’s future. With a will you can be at peace of mind that in the unfortunate event of your untimely passing a nominated guardian of your choice can provide the requisite necessities such as education and other expenses to your child until they reach maturity.
In the event that you had a will before getting married, the marriage annuls the will. So you will have to make a new will to ensure that the beneficiaries from the past will be adequately provided for upon you death. Also, de facto partners are not automatically recognised and entitled to the deceased partner’s possessions and assets. This can potentially leave a surviving de facto partner without either the personal belongings of the deceased partner or with adequate security to continue their lives in the fashion you may have wished.
Wills are not hard, and in our view, the simpler they are the better. Will kits are available from most local post offices, which should be simple enough to assist you to create an effective will, but this route runs the risk that an innocuous mistake could make the will invalid (and you don’t find that out until after it is too late). The best option is to make an appointment with a local lawyer experienced in drafting wills. For most people, creating a will through a lawyer is inexpensive unless your estate is complicated or you wish to rule your estate from the grave with an iron fist.
There are many more benefits to creating a will. The cost is only a small fraction of your time and a few hundred dollars out of your pocket. This is much cheaper than going to the dentist. So don’t delay. Where there is a will there is a way.
Source – John Steenhof, Partner, Steenhof Brothers Barristers and Solicitors www.steenhofbrothers.com.au