Writing a will is an important part of estate planning, enabling you to clearly outline how and to whom you would like your assets distributed upon your death. Nevertheless, NSW Trustee & Guardian claims that approximately 45 per cent of people in Australia do not have a will.
One reason individuals often give for not writing down their last wishes is that they don’t have anything of value to pass on when they die. You may be surprised, however, what you’ve accrued during your lifetime. Writing a will is also a good way of preventing will disputes against your estate.
Ultimately, few people die without any assets to their name. While you may not own a property or have significant savings and investments, you could have a superannuation fund, a vehicle or other belongings that can be passed on to friends and relatives.
You can also nominate executors in your will. These are the individuals who will handle your estate and perform a number of crucial functions when you die.
If there is no will or you fail to choose an executor, an eligible relative must apply for Letters of Administration. They must show that an extensive search was conducted to find a will, which can create extra work and unnecessary confusion among your loved ones at an already difficult time.
What happens if I don’t have a will?
People who pass away without leaving a will are described as dying ‘intestate’. This means their assets are distributed according to a formula based on their surviving relatives.
Typically, the deceased’s estate goes to their spouse in its entirety, even when they have children together. If the testator has children from a previous relationship, the assets may be divided differently.
In situations where there is no spouse, the estate is often distributed to family members in this order:
- Aunts and uncles
When there are no identifiable relatives, the deceased’s assets will pass to the state. Writing a will can therefore be useful if you have no family members, but would like to leave your estate to a friend, companion or charity.
Anyone unsure about whether or not they need to reconsider their approach to estate planning should get in touch with a contesting wills lawyer. An experienced law firm can give you help and advice on all aspects of the process, ensuring you are as well informed as possible when making important decisions.