Writing your will as part of your estate planning is one of the most important things you can do for your loved ones while you are still around to do it. But many of us put it off and there comes a time when the opportunity to do it passes. By then it is too late and you don’t get a say as to what happens with your estate when you die – you miss a serious opportunity to show your loved ones how much you cared for them while you were alive.
We are practised procrastinators when it comes to a lot of stuff in life. We put off many things: studying, putting out the rubbish, going to the dentist, getting enough sleep, cleaning your desk or starting that diet. But putting things off means that they don’t get done. Thinking about them doesn’t make them so. Many of the tasks we put off are beneficial to us, whether they are physical, emotional, mental or spiritual in their nature and rewards. Writing your will is one of those.
Reasons for Not Writing Your Will
About 70% of Americans don’t have a will. 30 million people in Britain don’t have a will – about 70 per cent of the population. Australia has even worse statistics for those who haven’t yet written a will. State Trustees 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. This is a common reason for many people who haven’t got a will. But there are many more reasons than that.
State Trustee chief executive Craig Dent 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.’’
Dent says the squeamish factor is also to blame for a general unwillingness in writing your will. ‘‘People inherently don’t like to plan for or think about their deaths, but it’s incredibly important,’’ he says. ‘‘Part of the advocacy work we do is planning for the future and that has to include planning for passing.’’ Though making a will is often pushed into the ‘‘too hard basket’’, Dent says the main purpose of a will is to make life easier for those still living. ‘‘Whilst you’ve gone and are no longer aware of what’s going on, making a will avoids conflict after the event and avoids a lot of grief for people who are already grieving,’’ Dent says.
Another reason people put off writing their will is because they are unsure what to do with their assets or who to name as an executor. Even if you’re not sure, it’s better to get something done. Your will is not set in stone once you sign it to make it valid. You can revise it at anytime as long as you still have testamentary capacity to do so (that means you are of sound mind). You should consider revising your will every 3-5 years or when there are significant life changes such as divorce, remarriage or with the birth of children. And don’t forget when writing your will that the assets you own now are unlikely to remain static.
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. The problem with putting off writing a valid will is that we do not know when we will be incapacitated or when death come’s knocking. Stieg Larsson, the Swedish journalist and writer who penned The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo died from a heart attack when he was 50 years old. He died without a valid will and so instead of his estate going to his long-term partner of 30 years, Eva Gabrielsson, under Swedish law it all went to his father and brother from whom Larsson had been somewhat estranged.
What Happens if You Die Without a Will in Australia?
If you pass away without a will, your estate will be settled in accordance with 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.
These are all things you can consider when writing your will. Now is the time to write your will. Organise a meeting today to get the advice of a professional. Tomorrow may be too late. At Estate Battles our estate lawyers offer a FREE, 10-minute phone consultation. Please contact us today to start your estate planning.