At some point in the future you will die.
Death (along with taxes) remains one of the few things in life which you can predict. While this is hardly a revelation it is a truth that too many people ignore, especially when you remind them of the importance of having a Will and estate plan. In fact, the question, “have you got your Wills sorted?” is too often followed by a dismissive shrug and the words, “Nah, but I don’t really need one.”
Truth is most people who walk through the doors of our office, have a very real need for a Will. Don’t believe me? Read on for our “Top 10 Reasons Why You Need to Get a Will”.
- You have a Superannuation Fund
Chances are, even if you don’t have a lot of assets, you probably have something in your Super fund. More importantly, and particularly for the twenty-somethings, you might easily have a half a million dollars in death benefits. Fact is; our younger clients (the ones most likely to put off the business of getting a Will) are probably worth more dead than alive. Even though you think you don’t have assets, you probably do. It is your right to say to where these assets go, should you die unexpectedly and a Will is the best way to do this.
- It Has Been a While
You may have a Will, but it was drawn up a while ago. Too often we ask clients about the age of their last Will and they smile, telling us that it was only drawn up a ‘little’ while ago, only for us to discover that the Will in question is actually ten or fifteen years old.
Wills must be reviewed at least every five years. Furthermore, if you make a significant life change (marriage, death of a spouse, birth of a child, purchase of property), you should definitely review your Will to ensure that it still meets your needs or that the Will is revoked by law.
- You are a Parent
When you become a parent it is easy to be distracted by what is in front of you at that time (nappies, sleepless nights, increasing cost of education). However, what would happen should you die unexpectedly? Who would take care of your children? How would you provide for them financially? How can you ensure that, in the event of your death, your children will still have the opportunities you had dreamed for them?
A Will is the best place for you to record these wishes. It is also a great starting point for the discussion of related financial matters that might include a need for life and permanent disability insurance or the creation of a testamentary trust as a means to manage and safeguard assets while maximising available taxation advantages.
- You Want to Safeguard Assets Beyond the Grave
More and more families are coming to us for legal advice express a desire to safeguard their estate from the partners of their children (especially in the event of divorce). While not all Wills have the capacity to do this, a solicitor skilled in estate planning, can create a type of Will called a Testamentary Trust that can do just this (and more).
- You Don’t Want to Die Intestate (You actually want to have a say in what happens to your assets after death).
If you die without a valid Will you die ‘intestate’. In simple terms this means that it is up to the government to decide who your assets will go to. Usually, assets are distributed to your nearest family members. However, if none are found, then quite simply the government will keep it for themselves. The latter especially is a pretty horrifying thought (I mean they got enough out of you while you are alive).
A valid Will is the only way that you can state who has access to your estate following your death.
- You own property or have an investment portfolio.
If you own property or have an investment portfolio, it is crucial that you develop an estate plan to determine what will happen to these assets following your death. A good lawyer will not only assist you to identify who the beneficiaries will be, but will provide options at the planning stage to help you to manage these investments more effectively while maximising available tax benefits.
- You Own a Business
If you are the owner (or part owner) of a business it is important that you consider what will happen to that business following your death. We call this Succession Planning. A good succession plan as part of a Will can allow for the continued growth of the business after your death. It can also work to maximise the value of the business to your beneficiaries should you die prematurely.
- You Recently got Married (or are Living in a Defacto Relationship)
When you get married (or are living in a defacto relationship) it is important to have your existing Will reviewed (or created) in light of this relationship. At this time, couples often like to consider arrangements for their children (or potential offspring) and express these wishes in a Will. Blended families, especially those for which each partner brings their own children to the union, bring their own set of complications to estate planning. In short, if you are newly married and have a child to another partner, it is imperative that you speak to a solicitor promptly in order to protect the rights of your child to your estate (should you predecease your new spouse).
- You Recently got Separated or Divorced.
Many people make the mistake of believing that separation or divorce makes a Will null and void. It doesn’t. If you get separated or divorced, act quickly to have a new Will drafted, especially if you wish to limit your former spouse’s ability to make a claim on your estate should you predecease them.
- Your Spouse is Now Deceased.
When a spouse dies it can be a testing time. In all likelihood, the Will that you had while your spouse was alive will no longer work for you in their absence. During the process of submitting the paperwork for a Grant of Probate, a great solicitor will ask to review your Will and draft a new one according to your wishes.