The Top Ten Things You Should Know About Wills & Estate Planning.
1. You simply must have a will. If you don’t, the State decides how your hard earned assets are to be distributed and who is going to distribute them – perhaps to family members you wouldn’t otherwise be caught dead giving anything to!
2. Having your will properly prepared is painless; it is not a “black art”. Making a will today doesn’t mean you’re going to die tomorrow. Think of it as insurance “should something happen”. But guess what: it can happen! We’ve lost count of the number of families who have been distressed by the fact that their beloved brother or uncle died suddenly without making a proper will, thinking they did not need one or that “it would not happen to me”, and leaving a trail of unallocated assets and debts behind.
3. A will has no operation until and unless you die, which means you can change it however many times you want before you drop off the perch. This gives you a lot of flexibility from an estate planning point of view.
4. Wills are inexpensive. Around $250 will get you a simple, standard will which is perhaps all you will need. That’s cheaper than your annual car insurance, an AFL season ticket or a family day at the Royal Show. And what’s more important?
5. Unlike car insurance, a will could potentially be a one-off expense. Unless your circumstances change, there might never be any reason to change your will (although it is always a good idea to review your will every few years).
6. You don’t have to have a lot of assets to have a will. Even if you don’t own real estate or have a lot of money in the bank, you may well have a significant amount of super the distribution of which you may be able to control through your will. We’ve also heard of cases where people win the Lotto, then drop dead within 6 months without making a will. Luck goes both ways and think of a will as a bit of protection for you and your family.
7. While you can’t take it with you, you can certainly control how your assets are divided and how any income from your estate can be distributed – “from beyond the grave”. That’s pretty powerful stuff if you are concerned about how your loved ones are going to use what you worked so hard to
8. Marriage revokes (or legally cancels) a will. So if you’ve made a will as a single person, then decide to get married, your will is revoked. Best then to make a will in contemplation of marriage (this is tricky, so get advice).
9. Divorce revokes a gift in the will to your ex spouse but leaves the rest of your will intact. If you are separated, you really need to look at re-doing your new will
10. While a will can be a relatively straightforward document to prepare, the law around estates and estate planning is anything but. Avoid homemade wills or DIY will kits! Provided a will is done properly (preferably drafted by a lawyer upon advice), it will be very hard for anyone to challenge, but it is possible for family members who’ve been left out or who’ve been left too little to make a claim. Getting professional and expert legal advice is your best chance of avoiding this happening to you and your estate.