Having a valid Will is an important document which states how you would like your assets to be distributed when you die, and the person or organisation you would like to be responsible for carrying out your wishes.
What if you Die without a Will?
Your estate may not be distributed to your beneficiaries in the way that you would wish. You may not have left clear provision for your loved ones and you may be placing an extra burden on them at a time of stress, grief and loss. There may be potential for conflict between the beneficiaries of your estate.
Following are some scary stories about what can happen if you don’t have a valid Will.
The Estranged Father
Kylie was 22 years of age when she died in a tragic accident. Kylie did not have a Will and her estate received a $2M insurance payout due to her accidental death.Because she had not made a Will, Kylie’s estate was divided with 50% allocated to each of her parents. This was even though Kylie’s father deserted the family when Kylie was six months old and did not pay a cent of child support.The family claims there is no way Kylie would want her Dad to receive anything – but that didn’t matter.
A Prior Relationship
Jan was 45 years of age and in a de-facto relationship with Bob for the past 10 years. She had completed a Will 20 years earlier when she was married to Jeff (ex Husband) for 2 years – leaving all of her estate to him.
She died suddenly and had not updated her Will to include Bob (and exclude Jeff) – and due to this, her full estate was initially allocated to Jeff as outlined by her prior Will. Bob will have to make a claim with the courts to benefit from Jan’s Estate.
Informal Family Relationships
James lived in a de facto relationship with his partner, Karen, for more than 20 years and helped raise Karen’s children from a previous relationship. These children lived with them until they were adults. Karen passed away before James and she left him her estate in her will. James continued his close relationship with Karen’s children for many years.
When James passed away without a will, Karen’s adult children did not receive any of his estate, including the family home where they had lived all their lives. James’s estate was given to his brother living in New Zealand. To share in the estate, Karen’s children had to submit an application to court as his stepchildren.
The Business Partners
David and Michael are brothers who have recently started a business together. The business is owned through a company, where they are both directors and own the shares 50/50. Suddenly David dies and as part of his estate his wife decides she wants to sell the business to pay out some private debts. If a buy/sell agreement had been put in place, it could allow Michael to buy the remaining portion of the business from David’s estate, rather than being forced to sell the business.
Who Needs a Will?
- Everyone over 18 who has capacity to make a Will, should make one. Regardless of the size of your estate, it’s important to have a valid Will.
- It’s also very important to have a Will if children are involved, to name the guardians for your children.
- If you own a business, it’s important to decide what will happen to your business on your death – whether it will cease or continue trading.
If you need to write or update your Will, please contact your solicitor as soon as possible to make an appointment.