Why Do I Need a Will?Ben Olsen
What is a Will?
Making a will is one of the single most important things you can do to make sure your spouse and child are cared for should something happen to you. In your will you can appoint a person (guardian) to care for your children if you die before they become legal adults. You can also designate a person (executor) to manage your money for your children until they reach adulthood. You can appoint one person to act as both guardian and executor, or choose two people to carry out the separate roles.
What happens if I die without a Will?
Without a will, there’s no guarantee that when you die your money will go to the people you want or that your spouse and children will be cared for by the person you believe will do the best job.
This may come as a shock, but if you die without a valid will, state laws require that your property be divided according to a fairly inflexible formula. In most states of Australia your spouse, if you have one, would receive only about one-third to one-half of your estate. The rest would be earmarked for your children.
Sounds fine, but without a will, in some states a state-appointed administrator (who charges fees for the service) would control your children’s money until each child turned 18. That means your spouse wouldn’t be able to access the money to help raise your children without going through a very complicated legal procedure. And even if the courts decided that your spouse could hold the funds earmarked for your children in trust, he or she would have to supply the court with an accounting of how the money is used each year.
Moreover, if you and your partner both died without a will, the state courts and social services department would appoint someone to raise your children. And that person might have very different ideas about parenting than you do. Even if you think you have almost no property to leave your children, it’s worth making a will to make sure you get to choose their guardian.
Finally, if you die without a will, your estate will likely incur significantly more money on fees, especially if Letters of Administration are required. This is money which should really be going to the people who need it most – your loved ones.
Things to think about
Whilst “self-help” will kits are available, they tend to be overly simplistic. The formalities of executing a will must be strictly adhered to otherwise the will could be deemed invalid. It is best to therefore have a solicitor draft your will. The consequences of not have your will drafted and executed correctly are just too great to risk. Here are a few things to think about before making an appointment with your solicitor:
- make a list of all your assets, including bank accounts, investments, real estate, life insurance, and personal property;
- choose an executor to carry out your wishes and handle the necessary paperwork after you die;
- decide exactly whom you want to inherit what, and when: for instance, you might want your daughter to inherit her grandmother’s gold bracelet when she turns 18;
- choose a guardian for your minor children;
- choose alternate executor/guardian in case your first choice is unwilling or unable to do the job; and
- decide whether you have any specific wishes regarding funeral arrangements, burial preferences, organ donation (transplant and/or medical research purposes) and so on.
Contact Olsen Lawyers now on (07) 3846 5288 to discuss our special package prices and book your consultation with an experienced Solicitor. The longer you leave it, the longer you and your family are exposed.