Updated: Mar 30
I think it's safe to say that the majority of us know what a Will is and that we should all have one and yet 58% of Australian's don't. It's not surprising, though. Death isn't something anyone likes to talk about and, there's a lot to think about too, - who should benefit, who should look after the kids, who you should appoint as executor, and so on.
As a parent, I understand the need and the desire to protect my children daily. I am sure that most parents do, but in my experience, there is such a reluctance on the part of parents to get their affairs in order. I was only talking to friends of mine the other day, and we touched on this very subject. Even though they have three children over the age of 8 years, with no immediate family in Australia, they still haven't got around to making their Wills, and I know that they're not alone! Clearly - not a priority, but it certainly should be.
So, what is a Will, why should you have one, and how do you choose a Guardian for your children.
What is a Will?
A Will is a document which expresses your wishes of what will happen to your estate, i.e. your property, money, possessions etc. when you die. Amongst other things, you can choose who you want to inherit your estate. You can appoint someone you trust to manage and distribute your estate. You can pass on items of sentimental value to those who will appreciate them the most, and you can choose who you want to look after your kids when you're gone.
However, not all assets pass through your Will. For example, if you own your home as joint tenants, regardless of what your Will says, your share will automatically pass to the survivor. Neither do assets held in trust, for example, superannuation or life policies. So, seek advice with regards to those assets, as part of your estate plan.
What happens if you don't have a Will?
If you don't have a Will, your estate will be distributed according to the intestacy rules. The rules are rigid and won't necessarily distribute your estate in the way that you intend. A prescribed formula is used to determine the distribution of the estate, to those persons entitled to it.
Currently, if you are married or are in a de-facto relationship and have children, the first $150,000 will pass to your spouse plus your household chattels. The balance is then divided equally between your spouse and your children. If you're single with kids, your estate will be distributed equally between your children.
But writing a Will is so much more than just about money. It's about protecting the most precious and valuable asset you have – your children. Without a Will, you won't be able to choose the best person to look after your kids when you're gone.