Why do you need a Will?
Wills & Estates Lawyer Michael Clohesy advises that a professionally drafted Will ensures all your assets are distributed according to your wishes. This takes pressure off grieving family and friends and is plainly and simply just ‘good manners’.
A Will is a formal legal document through which you express your final wishes concerning the distribution of your property when you die. The Will controls who gets your property (known as your ‘Estate’) and how much of the Estate each beneficiary is entitled to.
Unfortunately nearly half of all Australians don’t have a Will. If you die without a valid Will the law decides who gets your assets. This is known as dying ‘intestate’. The intestacy laws apply to everyone who dies without a Will. They do not take into consideration any of your dying wishes.
For instance, if your domestic partner/spouse dies without a Will (I’m assuming you have no children) you will inherit all their assets.
However if your partner dies ‘intestate’ (and you have kids) then you will only receive the first $100,000 from the Estate plus one third of the balance. The remaining two thirds of your partner’s Estate will be distributed equally amongst the kids. Further, if you have young children their inheritance could be locked away until they turn 18.
If you are single, have no kids and die ‘intestate’ your parents will inherit all your assets. If your parents have already died then next in line are your siblings, your grandparents, aunts and uncles, great-grandparents, nieces & nephews, first cousins, great nieces and nephews, first cousins once removed, second cousins and finally remote kin. When there are no surviving relatives (or they cannot be located), your Estate passes to the government.
Finally, some people take short cuts when doing their Will. Instead of using a qualified Wills & Estates lawyer they try and save money by using an Online Will site or by filling out a Post Office Will kit. Unfortunately, lawyers regularly see errors in these cheap Will alternatives. These errors cause hardship and trying to fix them can generate huge legal expenses. Like any other purchase in life: you get what you pay for.
Michael Clohesy is a Wills and Estates Lawyer. Contact him directly on 0417 342 972.