It’s estimated that 45% of Australians haven’t written a will. That means that almost one out of every two of you reading this haven’t expressed your wishes for what will happen to your estate after you die. We spend our lives working hard to support, provide for, and care for our families while we’re alive. Do you know what would happen when you die? How would your family be affected if your wishes weren’t taken into account? Are you now asking yourself ‘Do I need a Will?’ To answer that question, it’s best to understand more about what a Will is and does.
What does a Will cover?
A Will is a formal legal document that principally deals with what you wish to happen to your property after you die. It allows the Will maker to have a say as to matters such as:
- Who might receive particular items of property, from real estate to heirlooms;
- Who might receive the balance of their money or assets;
- Assisting loved ones with incomes or supporting their living arrangements;
- Deciding who will ensure their wishes are carried out (their executor);
- What they wish to happen to their body and organs or what sort of funeral arrangements they might wish; and
- Who they may wish to care for any children they may have (an infant guardian).
After your death, your money and property are known as your estate. Without a Will, you have no say in how your estate will be distributed.
What happens if you don’t have a Will?
Dying intestate (without a valid Will) means that your estate will be distributed according to a formula set out in legislation. Whilst this might reflect what you would want, the reality is most people don’t know what the formula is or how it would apply to their circumstances. Dying intestate tends to make dealing with your estate more complicated and can take longer or cost extra to finalise. Whilst it tends to be rare, it’s possible if you die intestate that your estate could pass to the government (for example if a qualifying relative cannot be found).
Who can make a Will?
You can make a Will generally if you are 18 or older and have mental capacity. A person with a disability or illness may still be able to make a Will, so long as capacity exists at the time the Will is made. It’s not important to be wealthy or own lots of property, merely that you wish to have a say as to what is to happen.
Get a professional to assist
Making a Will is not necessarily a long or difficult process. It’s also usually cost-effective, particularly when an experienced lawyer assists in the process. Whilst do-it-yourself Will kits exist, it’s normally prudent to get a professional to assist. This ensures your Will is done properly and critically, that it reflects your wishes, and is appropriate for your needs.
A lawyer can also advise and assist you with concurrent concerns such as Superannuation nominations, expectations around life insurance policies, the treatment of joint assets, and assets held via trusts or companies. They can advise on more complex personal or financial circumstances. They may also help you put in place additional documentation such as (enduring) Power of Attorney and Enduring Guardianship.
How long will my Will be valid?
There’s no particular time limit around a Will. Your most recently and validly executed Will stays current until your death, unless it’s changed by you or is otherwise revoked (by for example your marriage). It’s important to regularly consider whether your Will reflects your wishes and personal circumstances and if not, to consider updating. Major life events or changes in your circumstances are occasions to stop and consider your Will’s current provisions.
Who will benefit from your estate?
It’s estimated that only about 55% of the Australian population have a valid, up to date Will. Those that do not, risk their estate not passing to those that they might prefer, or in different proportions to their wishes. They might see peculiar outcomes such as their estate passing to a separated spouse, or to a new spouse but not subsequently to their children.
Wills range in complexity, whilst most Wills tend to follow reasonably predictable formulas, sometimes a person’s financial or family circumstances may provide reasons for a more detailed document. Whether simple or complex, it is important that your Will be drafted particularly to your circumstances.
Organise your Will for peace of mind
With most of us currently living and working in isolation, with both the additional time and anxieties that may bring, now is a good time to consider whether you may need or may need to update your Will. Vale Law offers flexible arrangements for Will matters and is pleased to answer any initial questions clients may have, without charge, to better understand what may suit your needs and to ease any concerns.
Vale Law | Your local lawyer, making life simpler
Derek Vale – Owner
Description: Derek is based in Valentine, Lake Macquarie, and provides straightforward and friendly legal advice and services in Conveyancing and Property Law; Wills and Estates; Power of Attorney & Guardianship; Family Law; Small Business; and General Law and Disputes.
Phone: 02 49428581