The news has been dominated by the tragic deaths of young and healthy people. Men and women in the prime of their lives, with young families, suddenly taken in unpredictable circumstances. It’s a stark reminder of the fragility of life.
Nobody likes to talk about dying, especially if they’re young and in relatively good health. And everybody assumes they are going to live for a long time. But unexpected tragedies can and do happen, and the situation can be made much worse for your family if the deceased person doesn’t have a valid will.
Getting a will made is an easy, relatively inexpensive process and is an investment in your peace of mind. You don’t need to own lots of assets or have children.
The laws on wills are State-based, and are different depending on your State or Territory. I will cover the basic principles; a lawyer in your home town can assist with the finer details.
Why should you have a will?
If you don’t, a government-appointed executor will decide what happens to your assets, strictly according to intestacy legislation. You won’t be able to express any preferences for who cares for your young children, who inherits your personal possessions and who can live in your home. If you pass away without a will, your house could be sold from under your partner and children, in order to comply with the strict inheritance laws.
Not having a will can result in terrible outcomes for your family, often creating conflict between relatives. For anyone with a blended family, getting a will made is absolutely essential. Some State intestacy legislation doesn’t recognise step-children or new de facto partners. And there may be no way to leave legacies to charities and friends. A will is also a tax-effective way to create trust funds for children and to prevent them inheriting a large amount of money before they are old enough to spend it wisely.
There is no way you can stop a family member from challenging your will, but you can make it very difficult for them to succeed. If you are leaving anybody out, or your children will inherit in uneven shares, you should include clear and detailed reasons for your decisions. Choose carefully when appointing an executor as they will be responsible for carrying out your instructions.
Do-it-yourself will kits are dangerous because they are limited in scope and can easily create ambiguity. There is no point getting a will made unless it’s enforceable and does what you want it to do.
And it may actually be far more tax-effective to give away your assets before you pass away, instead of in your will. Getting legal and financial advice is highly recommended, so you can tailor a will that is best suited to your unique circumstances.
Note: the above is general information and should not be considered as legal advice.
About Your Guest Blogger: Kate Ashmor runs her own Melbourne-based ‘digital’ law firm, Ashmor Legal, focusing on conveyancing, wills and powers of attorney. When she’s not chasing her two young daughters or tweeting, Kate serves as Chairman of Caulfield Park Bendigo Bank – #noboringlawyershere!