We are seeing a disturbing new trend where there are more people dying in Australia without leaving a valid Will.
Which leads us to the next question…do you really need a Will? A Will is a way for you to provide clear directions as to how you wish to leave and divide up your hard-earned assets on your death. Without a Will, you cannot decide who will control your affairs on your death, who will take care of your minor children, you cannot make gifts or donations or benefit those people that you wish. In a blended family situation, dying without a Will cannot often result in expensive and emotionally fraught litigation on that person’s death.
When should you update your Will?
A new Will should be made in the following circumstances:
- Acquiring new assets (e.g. a new property);
- Disposing of assets;
- Addition of new family members (birth of children or grandchildren);
- Children becoming adults;
- After the death of a beneficiary listed in your Will; and
- The commencement or disposal of a business interest.
- What happens if you die without a Will?
You are deemed to have died intestate and the succession laws of the state or territory in which you are considered domiciled, will determine the succession of your assets.
For example, if you die intestate in Victoria:
- In a nuclear family scenario (husband/wife + children to that relationship) = all estate goes to surviving spouse in first instance
- In a blended family scenario (second spouse and children not of that spouse) =
second spouse receives a statutory legacy (currently $451,909), all personal chattels and half of the balance of the estate with the children from another relationship to share in the remaining half of the estate
- Complex division if more than one spouse/partner of deceased and children
It is advisable to have your Will reviewed at least every 5 years. It does not mean that you will necessarily have to incur the expense in preparing a new Will, but it is a good timeframe in which to check in and see that your Will is still appropriate in your present circumstances.