Prevent a legal wrangle by making a legal will

DO YOU HAVE A WILL?: Make sure your assets are left the way you want by leaving a legal will. Picture: SHUTTERSTOCK.
DO YOU HAVE A WILL?: Make sure your assets are left the way you want by leaving a legal will. Picture: SHUTTERSTOCK.

DYING without a valid will can open the door to a long-winded, expensive legal battle for surviving relatives.

Figures from the NSW Trustee and Guardian show on average, almost half of all Australians do not have a current will. If you die without a will, no one knows for certain who you wanted as your executor or your beneficiaries.

"Making a will is the only way you can ensure your assets will be distributed according to your wishes when you die," the NSW Trustee and Guardian website states.

"Studies show that at least 45 per cent of Australians do not have a valid will. If you die without a will your estate will be distributed according to a pre-determined formula and, if your only living relatives are more distant than cousins, your estate will pass to the government."

Put simply, it could lead to unwanted people getting a share of your estate. While talking about death is something few people want to do, dying without a will can put further stress on family members during what may be one of the most difficult periods they will ever have to face.

For many, the family home is the most valuable asset that needs to be divided up, and failure to plan could lead to expensive mistakes.

The NSW Trustee and Guardian does not recommend people make their own will, due to it being a specialised legal task.

However, Legal Aid NSW states making a will does not have to be complicated or expensive.

It states a will must be signed and witnessed properly to be legally valid. Making sure the bequests are stated clearly is also important to ensure the wishes carried out properly.

"While there are do-it-yourself will kits, it is safer to get a professional to do your will to make sure it is done properly and is appropriate for your needs," Legal Aid states.

Most people have preferences for what they would like to see happen to their estate after they die, a Core Data report on Inheritance and Retirement commissioned by Australian Seniors Insurance Agency showed.

Of the seniors likely to leave an inheritance for their children, close to half (47.9 per cent) had a detailed plan, while more than two in five (42 per cent) had a vague plan.

Seniors planning to leave an inheritance for their children said they would pass on an average of 88.2 per cent of their estate, according to the report.

Regarding its distribution, 93.2 per cent of respondents said they planned to divide it equally between their children. Most seniors did not feel or expect to feel guilty for spending money (88.9 per cent) or do not live or expect to live below their means (83.9 per cent) to accommodate plans to leave an inheritance for their children.

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