With the recent passing of Prince and subsequent news he died without a will, what should be a time of reflection and mourning may now be hijacked by a litany of claims and contests against his vast estate.
This is not a new story. Notable stars who’ve also died without a will include Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley and their families have battled for up to three decades in an attempt to settle the estates of their loved ones.
What if you die without a will in Australia?
If you die without a will, you die intestate. This means that State Intestacy Law will determine how your estate is to be managed and distributed.
Not having a will means:
- You do not have a say about who will benefit from your estate, for example, your assets could be shared with relatives who you do not wish to benefit
- You do not have a say about who is charged with the role of administering and making final decisions about your estate
- Your estate may take an extended period of time to settle (more than 12 months)
- The cost to settle your estate may be significantly more than if you had written a will at first instance.
No matter the size, your estate will need to be administered and settled. This task would fall on either an executor nominated in your will or, if you died intestate, the role would be delegated to a next of kin (generally the individual who has the largest entitlement to the estate).
Reasons why it is vital that you have a valid and up to date will
A will that is clearly written and up to date can:
- Define who you would like to take on the role of executor to administer your estate
- Aid your executor in understanding how you would like your affairs managed
- Help ensure all your assets, including property and other possessions, are distributed in accordance with your wishes
- Set out the beneficiaries (individuals or organisations), you want to benefit from your estate
- Appoint a guardian for your minor children and outline any wishes for how they should be brought up
- Reduce any potential conflict relating to your estate after your death by clearly stating your wishes
- Help to enable your estate to be settled quickly and with ease.
Updating your will
As a rule of thumb, you should change your will after a significant life event like:
- If you marry, re-marry/re-partner, separate or divorce
- If you have more children/grandchildren
- If you acquire or dispose or significant assets (e.g. property)
- If you establish or dispose of a company or a business
- If an executor becomes ill or dies
- If a beneficiary dies or has a significant change in circumstances
If you’ve previously made a will, a major lifestyle or relationship change such as marriage or divorce could affect how your estate would be managed and settled. For example, a recent marriage will affect any previous wills made.
Welcoming a child into your family should also prompt you to write or update your will. You can nominate a guardian for your minor children in case you die unexpectedly. Make sure you update your will after the birth of a new child. Interestingly, Heath Ledger did not update his will after the birth of his daughter Matilda, which meant that she was not a named beneficiary in his will. Despite this, Matilda was lucky in that the named beneficiaries to her father’s will (her grandparents and aunties) were willing to give up their entitlements to Heath’s estate to Matilda. If this were not the case, Matilda’s mother (or her legal guardian) would have had to lodge a claim on the estate on behalf of Matilda, in order for her to obtain an entitlement in her father’s estate.
For decades, State Trustees has been looking out for the best interests of the Victorian community to aid them to preserve their legacy for their loved ones. State Trustees writes more wills than anyone else in Victoria and our will writers are experts in dealing with estates of all levels of complexity. See our locations and book a consultative will writing service.
Share this article