Think you don’t need a will because everything will easily transfer to your spouse? Planning on saving a few bucks by writing up your own will online? We look at some common will misconceptions and why you need a watertight legal document.
If we had a dollar for every client who told us they’d been meaning to have a will drawn up for years, we’d be retired and living on a tropical island. Given the busy lives we all lead, it’s no surprise that this seemingly tedious task gets pushed to the bottom of our to-do lists.
Lack of time isn’t the only reason people cite for not making a will. They also say they don’t really need one, a will is too expensive and the list goes on. Even those who do have wills have misconceptions about how they work.
To help clear up the confusion, we’ve compiled a list of the 5 most common myths about wills and estate planning. But before we bust those falsehoods, let’s look at some basic definitions.
What is a will?
A will is your direction regarding how you want your assets to be dealt with after your death.
For your will to be legal, it must be in writing, signed and dated. Your signing must be witnessed by two independent people who are not receiving any gift or benefit under the will (known as interested witnesses).
A will allows you to:
- Choose the person you trust to make decisions about your assets.
- Give your assets to the loved ones you wish to give them to (and the not-so-loved ones don’t get to benefit!)
- Let the world know who you think should look after your kids.
- Ensure your disabled grandchild is looked after, your bankrupt child has money for the future or your soon-to-be divorced child does not have to divide their inheritance with their ex.
Myth 1: I don’t need a will because I’m leaving everything to my spouse.
Many clients tell us they plan to leave everything to their partner or they “trust” their better half to divide their estate amongst their children as they see fit. What they don’t realise is that their spouse doesn’t have all the power when it comes to administrating their estate.
If you die without a will, also known as “dying intestate”:
- Your estate will be distributed according to the rules contained in the Succession Act 1981 (Qld) (or your state’s equivalent Act). These rules set out how the estate is to be distributed proportionately to people’s degree of relation to you.
- You may leave a bit of a mess for your loved ones. The first step in administering an intestate estate is for someone to apply to the Supreme Court of Queensland for Letters of Administration. This can be a long and costly process, so it is best to avoid it altogether by having a will.
Myth 2: I’ve told my family verbally what my wishes are and I trust them.
Not only does your family not hold all the legal power when it comes to dividing your estate, they may also disagree on your special wishes. Without a will:
- That special gift you promised someone will not be honoured.
- Your wishes regarding what to do with your remains may not be recorded.
- Your views as to who should look after your minor children may not be followed.
These decisions are important enough to warrant taking the time to prepare a will. You’ll have peace of mind knowing your wishes will be followed.
Myth 3: I don’t own much, so it’s not worth making a will.
Whether it’s a small or large estate, it must be appropriately administered under Queensland law. If you don’t have a will, administering your estate could end up being much more expensive for your family.
Your estate may also be worth more than you think once any insurance pay-outs are taken into account, so it’s worth making a will.
Myth 4: I can save money by writing my own will.
It might be tempting to write up your own will with a do-it-yourself kit you found online to save some money. Many people believe that even a handwritten note with their signature can constitute a valid will, but this is yet another myth.
If you try to make your own will, you may not prepare it or have it witnessed correctly. This can lead to confusion at best and an expensive legal battle amongst your loved ones at worst. Spending a few extra hundred dollars to have a legally sound will prepared could save your family tens of thousands of dollars down the road.
Myth 5: I can make amendments to my will by hand whenever I want as long as I initial the changes.
A valid will should never be tampered with or written on after it is finalised. You should not make any notes regarding your wishes after signing a valid will because such documents may be construed by the Court to constitute an “informal will”. This can lead to headaches and unexpected expenses for your family, so you’re better off having amendments made by your lawyer.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way….
We work too hard to build a nest egg for our family’s future to let it all fall apart once we are gone. Everyone should put a little time into making sure that nest egg is divided and distributed in the easiest, safest and most sensible way.
Contact our team today to get a quote for will and estate planning. Your peace of mind is priceless.