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What happens if you die without a Will?

If you pass away without a Will (known as intestacy) or without a current and up to date Will it can create unnecessary emotional and financial heartache for your intended beneficiaries.

What is a Will?
Your Will is the cornerstone of your Estate Plan. It is a legal documents which outlines how you wish for your personal assets to be distributed and dependents to be careered for upon your death.  A Will determines who will be in charge of the administration of your estate and provides instructions as to how the assets of the estate are to be distributed to beneficiaries.

The Main Aspects of a Will

Your Executor is the person you appoint in your Will to carry out your wishes as set out in your Will.  It is common that an executor is likely to be either the main beneficiary, a relative, a friend or an accountant or solicitor.  The executor you elect should be trustworthy and responsible, a person who is likely to out-survive you and a person who has the knowledge and ability to carry out the responsibility of Executor.

Beneficiaries are those individuals or entities that receive the distributions from your Estate as depicted in your will.

There are various methods of directing assets to beneficiaries via a Will. This may be as simple as leaving cash or a specific asset to an elected beneficiary or establishing an annuity.

If you have young children you should consider appointing a person in your Will to be the guardian of your children in the unlikely event that both parents die. This person is called the “testamentary guardian”. Although a guardian may be appointed in the Will, this is not binding.  The family court has the discretion to override and appoint a different guardian where it considers to be in your child’s best interest.

Reviewing your Will
A Will should be reviewed on a regular basis or if there is a change in the circumstances of the Willmaker or their intended beneficiaries.  The following list of event may require the review of a Will:

  • Marriage, separation and divorce
  • Birth of a child
  • Death of an executor or beneficiary
  • Disposal of specific assets which were intended for certain beneficiaries
  • Changes in the beneficiary’s or Willmaker’s situation