It’s not a subject we like to talk about, or even to think about really, which is probably why nearly half of all Australians die without a will.
If you die without a valid will, an administrator is appointed by the court to;
- arrange your funeral, collect your assets, and pay any debts and taxes,
- establish your family tree (evidence for which must be collected),
- distribute your remaining assets to your spouse and children according to a set formula, which varies across the States and Territories – if you don’t have a surviving spouse or children, then the assets are passed to parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, or to the government,
- administer the assets on behalf of beneficiaries who are minors (or otherwise incapable) which may require an insurance bond,
…in other words, it can be a lengthy, expensive process for grieving relatives to endure.
By making a will, you take control of the process
You appoint a person you trust to carry out your instructions (your executor). You may choose to leave particular personal items to certain people, and/or simply divide your assets evenly (or unevenly) between the people you nominate. You can even specify funeral arrangements and make gifts to charities or educational institutions, if you wish.
How do you go about making a will?
Ideally, you should involve a solicitor so you can be sure your will is valid and covers your situation. Even if you use a kit (see right) it’s a good idea to have a solicitor check it.
If you can’t afford a private solicitor’s fee, check with your State or Territory Public Trustee. Some will not charge to prepare or update your will, but only if they act as the executor of your will. Other Public Trustees may only exempt you from charges if you are a pensioner or aged over 60.
- ACT – Public Trustee for the ACT
- NSW – NSW Trustee and Guardian
- Northern Territory – Office of the Public Trustee
- Queensland – The Public Trustee of Queensland
- South Australia – Public Trustee South Australia
- Tasmania – Public Trustee Tasmania
- Victoria – State Trustees Victoria
- Western Australia – Public Trustee Western Australia
Done? Excellent. Now make sure your executor and/or family have a copy or know where you keep it. Also make sure you update it when circumstances change, especially if you marry, divorce or separate, have children or grandchildren, if your spouse or beneficiaries die, or if you have a significant change in financial circumstances.
DIY Will Kits
Australia Post sells Will Kits and there are a lot of online DIY offerings available.
These are better than nothing (as long as they are filled out and signed properly) but really they only cater for very simple circumstances.
If you don’t currently have any will, then you may want to use a kit as a temporary solution.
This will give you time to consult a solicitor or public trustee (see left).
What are your thoughts?
Do you have a will? If not, do you think you need one? Join the conversation — leave a comment below and let us know what you’re thoughts are.