Death is an uncomfortable certainty in life, unfortunately we don’t know when it’s going to happen. Having an up to date Will can save your family and loved ones a lot of trouble and stress at an already difficult time.
If you die without a Will (also called dying “intestate”) you do not get to choose who inherits your property, or who is responsible for administering your estate. Instead, the law will dictate who gets what, depending on your family circumstances. These rules are set out in the Administration Act 1969, which says:
- If you have a spouse or partner, and no children or other descendants, your spouse or partner will receive your entire estate.
- If you have a spouse or partner, and children, your spouse or partner will receive all your personal chattels (which includes vehicles, jewellery, furniture, household items, clothing, and pets), the first $155,000 of your money (which may be from the sale of property that you owned), and one-third of anything else that is left. Your children will receive the remaining two-thirds of anything that is left. If any of your children have died, their children (your grandchildren) will receive their parent’s share.
- If you have children or other descendants, and no spouse or partner, your children will receive your estate equally (e.g. if you have two children, they will receive half each). If any of your children have died, their children will receive their parent’s share.
There are also rules for when none of the above situations apply, such as if you have no children and no spouse or partner. Chances are these rules do not match your wishes, or provide for the people (or charities) that you want to leave something to when you die.
It is also a lot more complex and expensive for your family if you do not have a Will. Your family would need to apply to the High Court for Letters of Administration, which involves a lot of time and paperwork. A lawyer usually needs to be involved to help with the process which increases the costs. In addition, your family will need to go through all your papers and files to confirm there is no Will in existence, get details of your surviving family (including all your children), and find out what all your debts and assets are. This can be a long and stressful process, particularly while your family is grieving.
We strongly recommend that everyone over the age of 18 has a Will. Not only does this give you freedom to decide who gets your things after you die, you can set out your wishes around your funeral, who raises your children, and who looks after your pets. The administration of your estate is also a lot easier, more cost effective, and less stressful for your family.
It is important that your Will is done correctly, as otherwise it may not be valid. Our fees for preparing Wills start at $350.00 plus GST for a simple Will, and we can discuss the cost of more complex Wills with you. When preparing a Will we can also look at other options that might suit your circumstances, such as protecting property for children or people with special needs, or structuring your assets to help avoid claims from difficult family members and creditors.