Too often people put off creating a Last Will and Testament. Often they simply don’t wish to think about it. Or they are putting off the costs of making a Will with a lawyer, which are minimal compared to the costs that can arise from a contested or non-existent Will. If you have a Will in place already it’s equally important that you keep it regularly updated.

Over many years I have recommended to my clients that in order to protect their assets upon death—and ensure that their loved ones receive their entitlements—a Last Will and Testament must be created. Unfortunately, in most cases this simple, legal document is not done due to relatively small, short-term costs. As a result, a straightforward transfer of assets becomes not so straightforward and, in some cases, extremely expensive.

In today’s world, where it is not uncommon to be partnered more than once—or for one’s children to be partnered more than once for that matter—the need to protect your assets is imperative.

Circumstances change and your Will should change with them if you want to ensure that your estate doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Changes you should be aware of when making a Will or updating a Will include:

  • A close family member has died.
  • You have married or divorced.
  • A child has married, divorced, or gone into business.
  • You or your new partner have children from previous relationships.
  • You have gone into business with a family member.
  • You wish to minimise tax payable on your estate income or maximise your partner’s Centrelink pension.
  • You don’t have a valid Will.

The danger of not having an up-to-date Will

Greg Smith, principal lawyer at GHS Legal (Wills & Probate lawyers with over 30 years’ experience), gives the following examples of what could go wrong if you don’t have your Last Will and Testament reviewed every few years by an experienced lawyer:

Peter signed his Will in 2001 leaving everything to his three adult children and allowing his disabled son Mike to live rent free in the family home for life. Peter and Mary married in 2010 but he never got around to having his Will reviewed before he died after a short illness in 2013. After Peter’s funeral, his children were dismayed to hear that the 2010 marriage revoked Peter’s Will and that Mary would inherit the family home and the bulk of Peter’s investments and superannuation. Mike had to move out and live with his elder sister and her family while waiting for public housing.

Mike contested the Will but after more than $100,000 in legal fees, Mary still kept the bulk of Peter’s estate (which she then left to her own children). Peter’s other children got nothing.

Eve made a Will leaving her entire estate to her husband Tom and to their children if Tom died before her. Eve died and Tom eventually remarried (to Susan) but after ten years Susan left him. Half of Eve’s estate ended up in Susan’s pocket. Tom had to sell the family home to pay the Family Law settlement and moved in with his daughter.

Bill died, leaving everything to his three children equally. Bill’s son Geoff, a single father of three young children, still had one year to go on his bankruptcy after his plumbing business had failed. Geoff’s entire share of his father’s estate was taken by his bankruptcy trustee to pay off his tax debt and other creditors.

In all three of these cases, an updated Will would have protected their families.

For more information about our Estate Planning Services or advice on making a Will or updating a Will, call me anytime on (02) 8268 2900.