Sorting out your will in Australia might not be at the top of your to-do list, but it’s a critical task that deserves your attention. A will is a legally binding document that ensures your assets are distributed according to your wishes after you pass away.
In this blog post, we’ll delve into why it’s essential to have a will, the consequences of not having one, and how to go about creating your will in Australia.
The Importance of Sorting Out Your Will in Australia:
Legal Protections: Your will is your voice even after you’re gone. It provides legal protection for your wishes, ensuring they are carried out precisely as you intend.
Asset Distribution: Without a will, your assets will be distributed according to intestacy laws, which may not align with your wishes. This could lead to your assets going to people you didn’t intend to benefit.
Guardianship: If you have minor children, a will allows you to designate a guardian, providing you with peace of mind that your children will be cared for by someone you trust.
Avoid Family Conflicts: Clear instructions in your will can prevent disputes among family members and minimize the chances of costly and emotionally draining legal battles.
Tax Efficiency: Proper estate planning through a will can help reduce the tax burden on your estate, ultimately preserving more of your assets for your heirs.
Consequences of Not Having a Will:
1. Intestacy Rules
When you die without a will, intestacy laws dictate how your assets are distributed. This may lead to assets going to relatives you wouldn’t have chosen as beneficiaries.
2. Lengthy Legal Processes
The absence of a will can lead to prolonged and complex legal procedures, causing delays in asset distribution and financial hardship for loved ones.
3. Potential Financial Hardship
Without a will, your loved ones may face financial difficulties as they wait for the legal processes to conclude.
4. Inheritance Disputes
Family conflicts can erupt over who should receive what, causing emotional strain and costly legal battles.
To demonstrate the consequences above, let me give you a real life example of a family friend.
Bill and Jen were an elderly couple who had been together for decades. Bill was diagnosed with cancer and Jen had her own health challenges, so both of them were slowly decaying.
Jen’s daughter, Sarah, moved in with them to care for them and assist with all the practical tasks as both Bill and Jen weren’t able to support themselves.
The family also visited frequently to be with them in their final months. Sarah and the family did everything they could to support and be there for Bill and Jen as they always had been.
However, Sarah and the family weren’t of Bill’s bloodline. They were Jen’s (as she had remarried to Bill, and her family became a big part of Bill’s life ever since).
After months of surviving and battling, Bill passed away, and 3 hours later, Jen passed away too.
Now here’s where it gets interesting.
Bill didn’t realise his will wasn’t sorted out.
He had approximately $700k in his super account, which everyone assumed was going to be distributed to Sarah and her siblings as they were always involved in his life for over 30 years ever since he married their mother (they were basically his family too).
However, his will had appointed Jen as the distributor of his assets but since she passed away 3 hours after him, this was no longer possible.
Since there was no back-up appointor, the control was given to the government to handle the process, and their job is to follow the law to allocate to the beneficiaries correctly.
Out of nowhere, Bill’s estranged daughter, who had been out of his life for over 25 years, suddenly showed up in the picture when she heard about his death.
The correct legal process for the government to follow is to distribute the wealth down the bloodline.
Even though Bill’s daughter left his life a long time ago, she was now entitled to most of his assets as she is his bloodline, while Jen’s family were left with very little.
Since the will wasn’t sorted out, the family not only had to grieve the deaths of their loved ones, but they also were also faced the stress and financial strain of a legal battle in the Family Court to try and claim the assets over the estranged daughter.
There are many more cases similar to this as well which I won’t share for the sake of time.
But hopefully by this example, you can see the importance of sorting out your will and making it a high priority to ensure your family legacy is preserved and your children can have a seamless process.
How to Sort Out Your Will in Australia:
1. Consult a Solicitor
Seek legal advice from a qualified solicitor who specializes in estate planning and wills. They can guide you through the process and ensure your will is legally sound.
2. Identify Assets
Make a comprehensive list of all your assets, including property, savings, investments, and personal belongings.
3. Appoint an Executor
Choose a trusted individual to be your executor, responsible for managing your estate and carrying out your wishes.
4. Provide for Dependents
Clearly specify the needs of your dependents and, if necessary, appoint guardians to ensure their well-being.
5. Update Regularly
Review your will periodically, especially after major life events such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of children.
6. Witness and Sign
Ensure your will is properly witnessed and signed in accordance with Australian legal requirements.
7. Store Safely
Keep your will in a secure place, and inform your executor and loved ones where it can be found.
8. Inform Loved Ones
Share the existence and location of your will with your family so that they are prepared when the time comes.
9. Consider Professional Help
If your estate is complex, consider professional advice to minimize tax and legal complications.
10. Review Beneficiaries
Maintain an updated list of beneficiaries and their contact information.
Sorting out your will in Australia is an essential step in ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your wishes and that your loved ones are cared for after your passing. Don’t delay this crucial task, as it offers legal protection, avoids potential conflicts, and provides peace of mind for both you and your family. Consulting with a legal professional is the first step toward a secure and well-planned future.
If you want to find out more or be guided to get your will sorted seamlessly, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or speak with our team by clicking here to book a free no obligation call, and we will connect you with the best specialist for your situation.