I often I get asked this question, and the answer is always an emphatic and resounding YES!!!
Even if you do not have a lot of assets of value, a will lets everyone else know who you want to oversee the administration of your estate and where you want your assets to go to. You may save yourself a small cost now by not preparing a will, but you could be incurring expensive legal fees for your beneficiaries later.
There are some obvious examples of where there may be problems for your loved ones if you do not have a will. If you have a vehicle registered in your name, or a bank account, how is your next of kin going to be able to have that transferred into their name? The bank won’t release funds to just anyone, even if there is a death certificate to confirm the account holder has passed away. I have had clients come to me for a letter from a solicitor confirming they were the correct beneficiaries of a deceased estate under the relevant legislation in order to have a vehicle registration transferred, they were the parents of a deceased teenager. These are not matters you want someone to have to deal with in their time of grief.
The situation is even more problematic if shares, a refundable accommodation deposit, or real estate form part of the estate. An application to the Supreme Court for a grant of letters of administration may be needed in order to release assets to the estate. This can be both expensive and time consuming. The applicant would need to show that they have made reasonable attempts to locate a will, which usually includes contacting all the local solicitors to confirm there isn’t one held at their office. The person left to deal with the administration of the estate also has to distribute the estate in accordance with the legislation, whether or not that was what the deceased would have wanted, and this can often result in distributions to partners or children the deceased has had no contact with for several years.
You should also be wary of preparing a will yourself unless you have had appropriate legal advice beforehand. I often come across situations where people think they have done the right thing and prepared their own will, either by themselves or by using a purchased will kit, but it has been done incorrectly. The most common issue is a will not being signed or witnessed properly, but I have also seen a document prepared from a will kit that did not nominate any beneficiaries for the estate, an oversight that had significant consequences.
While it is not in our nature to want to think about what might happen when we are gone, preparing a will with a solicitor is relatively quick and inexpensive and can save your loved ones a lot of problems later. If you would like to discuss preparing or updating your will, contact KC Hilton, solicitor, 0419 464 946. KC is due to open her new legal practice, WNB Legal Pty Ltd, on 1 May 2020.