There’s a saying: Where there’s a will, there’s a lawsuit.
Wills aren’t just for wealthy people with money or assets
they’re also designed to stop arguments and protect the vulnerable at an emotionally difficult time.
If you’ve watched The Grand Budapest Hotel or any number of British whodunnits, you’ll know a missing or invalid will can create chaos.
Firstly, who needs a will? According to the NSW Law Society: “Anyone over the age of 18, and anyone under 18 who is married or contemplating marriage, can make a will, provided they have testamentary capacity.”
Testamentary capacity is a term to describe a person’s legal and mental ability to make or change a valid will.
Unmarried people under 18 can make a will with approval from the court, which is recommended if they’re earning large amounts of money.
Here are 4 key reasons to make a legal will, preferably written by a specialist lawyer.
1. You get a final chance to run the show!
There are lots of things we can’t control about dying – not least are the ‘when’, ‘where’, and ‘how’. However, there are loads of things we can control – including who gets what when you board the one way express to wherever you go after you die. Without a will, or a poorly written one, the family member you most dislike may end up being a total winner from your death.
The purpose of a will is to ensure you have a say in how your estate is divided up.
To be clear, an estate isn’t a country mansion, it isn’t even necessarily a house. Your estate is the money and property you own when you die. This includes items such as your car, money, investments, insurance, jewellery…even down to clothes and whitegoods.
According to Service NSW, if you die without a will: “Your assets will be distributed according to a formula set by legislation. This means that certain relatives will receive a defined percentage of your assets, despite what you may have wished.”
So the sister who cut off your dolls’ heads when you were kids or sold your jewellery for drugs may be eligible to profit from your death under the rules, instead of your favourite nephew who sent you flowers every Mother’s Day. Which is fine if that’s what you want! But if you want to share the spoils you’ve worked so hard to accrue, then this is the importance of making a will.
2. Keep the peace
This is about easing the worry for the people you love. While it may be temporarily amusing to think about the drama that might ensue after your death, chances are that it will bring a great deal of grief, hardship and possible conflict to your spouse, family and other loved ones you leave behind.
Many family conflicts have arisen after someone’s death, often ending up in court, which is expensive and unnecessarily stressful, usually to the people you want to protect. Family members or people in a close relationship (say an ex-spouse) may contest the will if they feel they have not been adequately provided for. A well-written legal will is more likely to offset those challenges.
Not to mention that if you don’t have any living relatives closer than cousins, your estate may pass to the government – and let’s face it, who wants that?!
3. Think of the children!
If you have children, it’s important to safeguard them. If they’re under 18, name guardians to look after them, with arrangements for their education and care.
If you have grandchildren, consider leaving them something – a small amount of money or favourite piece of jewellery.
4. Choose the details of your service
Your will can contain instructions on your wishes. Lay out all your wishes. Cremation or burial. Oak coffin, budget box, or even an enviro-friendly coffin pod. Church service, non-denominational cemetery chapel, by the beach, in a park. Music. Options for readings. Music. (Did you know the most popular funeral songs include Ave Maria, Wind Beneath My Wings, Dancing Queen, Always look on the bright side of life, and – hilariously – Highway to Hell?!)
What’s an executor?
As part of the will process, you name someone to administer the estate – an executor – and they carry out your wishes. Your lawyer will guide you on appointing an executor.
The executor has to apply for probate through the Supreme Court. Probate is the formal recognition that a will is legally valid, and clears the way for the executor to administer the estate – which includes collecting and distributing your assets, including paying any debts.
Review your will once a year to make sure it’s up to date, when your circumstances change, or when you marry or your relationship alters. Life is messy and while administration can be boring, this is one thing you really need to keep on top of.
If we learn anything from life, it’s that tomorrow is never promised. For guidance from a trusted specialist, Call CM Lawyers. It could be the best financial decision you ever make.