Everyone is urged to have a valid Will, but as one of the documents that make up a comprehensive estate plan, it is also frequently misunderstood. Misconceptions can lead to very costly mistakes – emotionally and financially.
Here’s five of the most common misconceptions we come across:
1. Family Executors don’t get paid
Many people believe that nominating a family member or friend as the Executor of their Will means the responsibility can be treated as a favour rather than a paid service. This isn’t always the case however, and especially if matters become complicated or burdensome, an Executor may feel they should be compensated for their time. An Executor may try to negotiate payment with beneficiaries or apply to the Supreme Court for commission.
2. Beneficiaries cannot challenge a Will
A Will is widely believed to be the final word on ‘who gets what’, but this simply isn’t true. There are legal avenues for some disgruntled parties to challenge a Will, even if they are already a beneficiary – in fact, leaving someone a nominal amount rather than nothing can bolster their argument to receive more. Important questions such as: Who are you responsible for, and How much is enough? - are not always easily answered and legal advice will be important.
3. Giving your reasons in a Will prevents such challenges
Including reasons for why someone has been left out (no matter how reasoned or heartfelt) does not necessarily protect against a challenge by that person. Doing so in the open format of a Will may even provoke them into challenging. It may be better to express such reasons in a private letter that can be referred to only if necessary. However everyone is different, and an experienced Wills Lawyer can help in how best to tell your story.
4. The estate pays for challenges
Another common misconception is that the estate will cover the costs of any challenges raised. This is not necessarily the case, and courts can actually compel parties who fail in their challenge to pay not only their own costs but also those of the estate.
5. The government gets it all if there is no Will
This worrying prospect is not true at all. In reality, the legal position is that an administrator has to give the estate to next of kin- working through levels of relatives, in some States even distant ones. If none are found then the government can get its hands on an estate.
A Will is rarely as basic or as straightforward as many think it is. By engaging professional estate planning services, you can avoid the missteps, ensure your estate is handled according to your wishes, and make your Will the effective and comprehensive document it needs to be.