17 Oct Wills – 101
This is the first in a series of articles on Wills and preparing for and dealing with grief.
Recently, a much-esteemed colleague passed away suddenly. His passing had a greater effect on staff within the office than you might have imagined. It also helped to remind us about how unprepared many of us are for when the final curtain falls. Over the coming months we will publish a series of Blogs that focus upon all manner of issues that you might need to consider in the event of somebody close to you passing.
Do you need to have a will?
If you have assets and you care how these assets are to be distributed after your death, then you will need a valid Will. The Will needs to nominate an Executor (someone who you trust to administer your estate after you have passed) in addition to the beneficiaries. The term Estate usually refers to all the affairs of a person that remain outstanding at their death, including assets and liabilities.
Some assets that will not form part of the Will-maker’s estate, include property owned as joint tenants with their partner; superannuation and life insurance proceeds which are paid directly to the nominated beneficiary and assets held in a discretionary or family trust. Other assets such as shares, money in the bank, motor vehicle, valuables including paintings, coin and stamp collections, furniture, etc. can be distributed as per your wishes expressed in your Will.
If you do not have a will
If there is no Will, the next of kin usually applies to the NSW Supreme Court for a document called “Letters of Administration” which in essence means, a Court appointed administrator of the estate. The Succession Act sets out a strict list of the beneficiaries of an estate when someone dies without a Will. This strict list may not be what you had intended for the distribution of your assets.
Can my will be challenged?
Drafting a Will which is uncontestable is difficult. Whilst you are entitled to leave your assets to whoever you want in your Will, and leave others out of it for whatever reason, if you leave out “eligible people” as defined by the Succession Act and they can prove their interdependency, you run the risk of your wishes being overridden in a legal challenge.
Creation of a will
A Will can be a simple or a complex document depending on the nature of the estate and the complexity behind the distribution of the assets.
The making of a Will can be as simple as purchasing a DIY kit online to having your will professionally drafted by a solicitor where, it is more likely that any pitfalls or traps around the manner in which the document is executed, will be avoided.
If this article causes you to raise a question about protecting your estate, then please contact us on (02) 9328 2944 and we can discuss how & Legal might assist.