If you die intestate, you have no control over who gets your property and possessions. This is decided for you by the Supreme Court of New South Wales, based on the intestacy provisions set out in the Succession Act 2006 NSW.
That's why it's important to make sure you get all of your estate planning done and dusted before it's too late!
So, what is this pre-determined formula, and where do your assets go if you die intestate?
If you pass away without a valid will, an administrator will be appointed by the Supreme Court of New South Wales to manage your estate. The administrator is usually your spouse or next of kin but could also be a creditor or any other person the Court deems fit. This person will see that any debts and taxes you owe are paid, as well as your funeral costs. They will then establish a family tree using birth and death certificates to determine who gets what from your estate.
In 2010, new laws regarding intestacy were introduced in New South Wales which widened the range of people who may receive part of your estate if you die intestate.
In order, these are: your spouse and / or children, your parents, your siblings, your nieces and nephews, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles, and your cousins. It should be noted there is no longer a distinction between half- and whole-blood siblings or aunts and uncles in the formula. Before 2010, cousins were not included in the Succession Amendment (Intestacy) Act 2009.
If you are not survived by a spouse, de facto spouse or any relatives, your estate is handed over to the Crown. So, if you want to leave your property and possessions to someone who isn't related to you - such as a charity or dependent - you will need to make sure you have a valid will in the event of your death.
It should be noted, however, that your dependents, organisations or people that have a "just or moral claim" on your estate, or to whom you might have been reasonably expected to leave something behind, can petition the Crown to provide for them from the estate.
Why leave it to chance, though? A valid will can make sure your last wishes are granted and estate planner can help ensure your estate is left the way you want it.
If you need advice on estate planning, or need to challenge how an estate is being dealt with, contact Dominic Wilson, an experienced estate lawyer at Craddock Murray Neumann, on 02 8268 4000.