This week has marked the annual Law Society Will Awareness Day and is aimed to remedy the fact that 45 per cent of Australians have not written up a valid will.
Estate planning is a must today because a valid will protects your assets for your loved ones tomorrow. A will allows you to direct what happens to your assets after you die. If you do not execute a valid will your assets will devolve according to the rules set out in Chapter 4 of the Succession Act 2006.
Making a will is a must if you have a business in which you have shares. Take the following example:
Ben owned all the shares in his company. Ben’s wife Sharon died in 1995 and he married his second wife Lorna in 2002. For the past 20 years Ben had been grooming his daughter Susan to take over the company. Lorna has had no involvement in the business. Ben dies without a will and all the shares in the business pass to Lorna. Susan has no guarantee that she will continue to have an interest in the business.
A will is a must not just because you want to ensure your assets pass to the people you intended them to but because it can save any potential beneficiaries a long litigation process. Estate litigation can pit family members against each and cost tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Another pitfall for testators is drawing up a will but failing to update it. For example, if a couple fail to update their will once they have children, this could leave those children without an inheritance once they die. Children under 18 can contest an estate in order to ensure they’re provided for. But without a will this can be an expensive process which erodes the asset pool of the estate.
If you fail to make a will the impact could be life altering for your loved ones. For example it can lead to family rifts and beneficiaries being left with responsibilities that they cannot manage. A will is a must to ensure that although their life will be altered by your passing, their financial position need not be compromised.
If you haven’t yet drawn up a will, and want to speak with an experienced lawyer about how you can protect your estate and your family call Dominic Wilson on 02 8268 4000.