The thought of passing away is enough to cause many Australians to put off making a will. However, unless there is a formal declaration regarding property, assets, and final wishes, many problems can arise. Below are some of the most pressing reasons for you to make a will as soon as possible.
Legal Definitions of “Spouse”
A new Succession Act in NSW (The Succession Amendment (Intestacy) Act 2009) has expanded the definition of “spouse” to include anyone who is a domestic partner to the diseased when they die. This not only includes wives or husbands, but partners and de facto spouses. Because of this new definition, it is possible for someone to die while having more than one spouse. Trouble can easily arise here, especially if there is no solid will to sort the matter out.
Imagine that a father has owned a family business for decades, and the daughter has helped to operate that business for the past 10 years. The father has been promising to pass the business to the daughter, as she has been there to help it thrive. But what if another child, the brother, has recently gone through some terrible debts? The father changes the will so that the son receives half of the business, assuming that the daughter will understand the situation. The daughter is outraged by this, since the son did nothing to help the business in his whole life. Through a series of challenges to the re-written will, both the brother and sister are left with much less money than they had after the father’s passing. By simply seeking out the appropriate legal representation, the father could have included something that dealt with his verbal promise to the daughter. This would have saved each of the siblings a lot of grief and money.
Relatives and Claims
People who can be considered beneficiaries include “spouses”, all children, siblings, parents, and cousins. With so many people who are able to make claims on a will, it can be difficult to ensure that your final wishes are carried out.
Children from Remarriage
Leaving everything to your spouse might seem simple enough, particularly if you only have the one when you pass on. If you have children, it seems logical to assume that they will be next in line to receive your assets, if your spouse should die. But what would happen if your spouse later married again, and then had children with that person? Should they divorce, their now ex-spouse could be entitled to receive half of their assets. Or your spouse might pass on, leaving everything to their second spouse. The children from the first marriage – your children – might never see any of your assets. It is safer to have everything written down in a water-tight will.
Having a will created by a professional legal representative is essential. It is also important to inform them about every possible scenario that might affect your will. Are there children from previous partnerships? Are there joint interests that you are not disclosing? Do not allow your final wishes to be overturned, because you did not have a suitable will.