Writing a will can be complex and take time, but it can also provide peace of mind and help protect the people you love.
Dying without a valid will is risky business.
It can mean your hard-earned assets end up with the wrong people, your estate might be subject to an expensive court dispute, or your valuable and sentimental possessions might be unintentionally sold.
“It’s never too early to organise your will and think about how the ones you love would get by without you and what provisions you’d like to make for them from your estate,” says Susan Bonnici, Estate Planning Solicitor at Equity Trustees.
A will is the only way to ensure your assets and precious items are distributed how you want after you pass away.
“While your money doesn’t automatically end up with the government if you die without a will, it may well end up there if you’re not careful,” she says.
When a person dies without a will, an administrator is appointed by the Courts to deal with their assets. State and Territory legislation then governs how the administrator will distribute those assets.
There is an order of relatives who receive assets when there’s no will.
If there’s no spouse or children, then their parents will receive the estate. If there are no surviving parents, then it goes to their siblings, then grandparents, then aunts and uncles and then cousins.
After all avenues are exhausted – usually after a long and expensive process – what’s left of the estate eventually ends up with the government.
Take care of the right beneficiaries
The main reason people make a will is to ensure that their family members are taken care of. This can include taking care of major ongoing living expenses, such as a mortgage, and transferring property to a spouse or partner.
Trust structures are another option that can protect assets left to vulnerable or disabled beneficiaries to ensure they’re properly looked after for the rest of their lives.
Relationship breakdowns are another area that should prompt a review of any pre-existing will. If someone dies before a divorce is finalised, then any provisions made for their ex-partner in a will continue to apply.
The same goes for separation, and if neither side has a will in place, it could be argued they are still considered ‘partners’ for the purpose of the estate distribution.
Signing a new will, which clearly documents that the relationship has ended and names your new beneficiaries, is the clearest way to prevent an ex-partner unintentionally receiving any benefits.
“It’s vital to get individual advice about what estate planning would work best for your circumstances and put a will in place to make sure the loves of your life are protected, and your wishes are respected.”
More information about Equity Trustees’ wills and estate planning services is available on our website.