Wills. We think about making one from time to time. Or we make one and then forget all about it, regardless of our personal circumstances changing. Or we make one using a store-bought Will-kit, without advice, and hope it all pans out OK when we shuffle off this mortal coil.
The thing is; a hassle though it may seem, making a Will properly is crucial if you want your estate passing into the right hands.
What happens if you dont make one?
Its not illegal of course. But it takes away your decision-making power. That means uncertainty. Dont make the mistake of assuming the state will distribute your assets the way you would.
The law changed last year. One of the big changes is that if you dont have a Will, your spouse (if you have one) inherits the lot. Not any kids you have together (if you do) – just your spouse. Theres a presumption that the kids will inherit later, when the remaining spouse dies. So theyll be covered down the track. Of course, if your spouse falls out with one of your kids, they could end up with nothing.
If you have kids from a prior relationship the rules are different. In the absence of a Will, those kids share in half of the estate (once a statutory amount has been paid to your spouse). The spouse gets the other half. The idea is that if those kids arent also your spouses kids, theres no expectation that theyll be provided for when your spouse dies. So they get a share in the first round (although kids from your current relationship may not agree with that logic).
To further muddy the waters, there can be multiple spouses. Spouse now means a person who has lived with the deceased for at least two years, married or not. When there is more than one spouse, the estate has to be shared equally between them. Determining the split between spouses could be a potentially distressing (and costly) business.
And if you have no spouse or known relatives, the state could end up with everything youve worked for.
A grim thought indeed. Making a Will could mean avoiding those kinds of unpleasant experiences.
Likewise with updating your Will. Things change. A relationship split, a new partner, a new baby. Its important to make sure you regularly review your Will so that it reflects your current circumstances.
And you want to ensure your Wills valid, which is why do-it-yourself kits can be problematic. Unclear wording can lead to misinterpretation. And it has to be signed and witnessed by strict rules.
This Friday the 19th is Will Awareness Day. A good opportunity to put your affairs in order perhaps?