A lot of people put off doing their Wills and estate documents. It can be quite confronting to consider something that is so closely associated with death. Death is unpredictable, and without a current Will, your estate may be handled in a way at odds with your wishes. Family and beneficiaries may be left to sort out a mess. You ignore your Will at your peril.
A Will is a document which specifies what is to happen with your assets following your death. Everyone should have one. During your life, it is sensible to review your Will from time and time and change it to suit any changed circumstances, particularly if a major life event occurs. If you don’t have a Will, then your estate will be dealt with according to the rules of Intestacy, which specify who is to receive your estate (usually spouses, partners and children), and in what share. This may not be your wish and intention at all and cause great injustice and makes the estate process longer and more expensive than if you have a Will.
There are other estate documents you should think about as well. If you are unable to make decisions yourself during your lifetime, due to accident or illness, you can specify what is to happen and who you authorise to make decisions on your behalf by drawing up a ‘Living Will’. Enduring Guardianship forms cover personal decision, Enduring Powers of Attorney forms cover financial decisions and Advanced Health Directives deal with medical decisions.
There are a few other things to be borne in mind. Any marriage invalidates an existing Will (except under certain circumstances), so you need to do a new Will if you marry. However, entering into a de facto relationship does not invalidate or affect any existing Will. Neither does separation from a marriage or de facto relationship.
A person entering into a marriage or de facto relationship takes on some potential legal responsibility to provide for their partners in their Will when they die. So when this happens it’s wise to make a new Will, particularly if there are existing children of a former family. If a partner is not provided for properly in a Will, they can make a claim on the estate.
Children entering or leaving marriages and relationships may mean parents need to revise their Wills and estate documents. A Testamentary Trust could be established to see that a person’s wishes are legally carried out after their death, giving their executors more powers and scope to implement their wishes after their deaths.
By properly preparing the necessary documents, a family lawyer can help save your family and loved ones much expense, delay and anguish, which might otherwise arise. Then you can rest in peace.