Why write a will? Especially if you’re young and healthy – it seems like death is far off. Plus, you think you don’t own much. So why write a will?
In Australia, it is the 30-somethings who are the most unenthusiastic about writing a will. Half of all Australians haven’t got one, yet every single one of us will die. Yet it’s important to consider: why write a will?
State Trustee data shows 50 per cent of 750 Australians surveyed don’t have a will. ‘‘Haven’t got around to it’’ was the simple reason cited by 48 per cent of those aged under 50 and 55 per cent of those aged 50 and older. Many of these people do have assets, might be married or have kids and yet they haven’t got around to writing their will. If they were to die unexpectedly, it could create chaos for their families.
At 36, Hadley Allchurch is one of those 30-somethings that has been reluctant to write a will. It’s at the end of a long to-do list for him. He says, ‘‘What I’ve always thought is, if I die naturally everything will go to my next-of-kin and that’s my wife,’’ he says. “It’s not something I need to worry about just yet. At my age it would make me feel very old.’’
It was only after his daughter was born that the idea of organising a will became more than a blip on his radar. ‘‘When you start to have children you think a lot more seriously about things,’’ he said. ‘‘My daughter has godparents so if anything were to happen to us, they would pick up the responsibility. There’s nothing in writing, but it’s been discussed. I’m also a godparent to a couple of kids and that’s the arrangement I have with their families.’’
Allchurch does not have a will, but his wife does and she has encouraged him to do the same. Research by State Trustees shows milestone events are the main triggers for will preparation. The birth of a child or grandchild was the number one reason 27 per cent of people aged under 50 organised their will, while 23 per cent did so after purchasing a property or asset.
Craig Dent, State Trustee chief executive, says making end of life plans simply doesn’t rate high on the agenda for a lot of people. ‘‘There’s so many people who haven’t gotten around to it because they’re time-poor,’’ he says. ‘‘Their kids have busier social lives than they do and they spend a lot of time running after their kids.’’
People also don’t like thinking about writing a will because it’s inextricably tied to death, and many people find that incredibly confronting. Twenty-three per cent of Australians under-50 said they didn’t think they needed a will and a further 12 per cent believed they were too young to need one. But we don’t know when we will die. What is more confronting, though, is that families who have a loved one die without a will not only have to deal with the grief of their loss, but also the mess that can be left behind when there is no will.
Why Write a Will?
It is one of the most loving things you can do for your family before you die. A will can help you:
- Save conflict for your family. By having a clear and valid will there is a lesser chance of arguments amongst your loved ones at a time which is already heightened with emotion. It enables people to be confident about your wishes being met.
- Divide up your estate according to how you would like it to be divided. Your property, money and other gifts will be given to those whom you wish them to be given.
- Appoint someone to look after your affairs. These people are called executors and they have a legal responsibility to administer your estate. An executor does not need to be a family member and sometimes there is wisdom in choosing someone else whom you trust, and who can be objective.
- Appoint guardians for your children. If they are under 18 when you die they will need a guardian. If both parents die and you haven’t appointed someone, the State will appoint someone for you.
- Writing a will also helps you to clarify what’s important to you. The prospect of death is a catalyst to stop procrastinating about getting our affairs in order.
What Happens if You Die Without a Will in Australia?
If you die intestate (without a will) then it is the State’s Intestacy Laws which will be the decider of how your estate is divided up. If you don’t have a will then there are lots of things you don’t get a say about including:
- Who will benefit from you estate. There may be relatives you don’t want your estate shared with or there may be some who are not included because of the state’s intestacy laws that you would like to benefit.
- Who will be in charge of administering your estate.
- Your estate may take a longer time to settle and cost more than if you had written a valid will before your death.
Accredited Specialist in Succession Law (Wills & Estates) Bryan Mitchell says: “Many people have complex lives. You may own assets with a someone other than your spouse, like a sibling or friend. You may have a company, business or trust. You may have been divorced and re-partnered, with children from different relationships. In all of these situations, a clear and detailed will is the only way for you to make your wishes known and to reduce the likelihood of conflict over your estate.”
Why write a will? Because writing a will does not need to be a complicated and scary affair. What can get very messy and be painful for your family is you not having a will. To speak to one of our estate lawyers, please contact us today. We offer a free, 10-minute phone consultation.