WA Wills and estate planning

What happens if you don’t have a Will

The Public Trustee WA conducted a survey in 2014 which found that only 35 per cent of adults had a current Will and only 19 per cent of families with young children have a Will.

There are many reasons why so many people do not have a valid, up-to-date Will. One of these is the perception that “it’s all too hard”.

However, if people were aware of what actually happens when you die without a Will, they may well reconsider their decision not to act and ensure their estate planning is in hand.

It is important to understand that if you die without a Will, legislation sets out how your estate is distributed. In my experience, this is very unlikely to be the way you would choose to distribute your assets yourself.

To give a common example, most couples I meet who have children together opt to leave everything to each other in the first instance and then to their children if they both pass away.  Under the Intestacy Rules in Western Australia this DOESN’T HAPPEN.

Let’s assume you are married and have a daughter, you have a house (in your name), a car and various other assets.  If you die without a Will, your spouse will get: your car and the contents of your house; the first $50,000 of your estate outright; and a third of the remainder of your estate. The remaining two-thirds goes to your daughter.

Depending on the value of the estate, this could mean that your child could end up with significantly more than your spouse! Moreover, your spouse may find themselves in a position where they have to sell the house in order to give the child the share that they are entitled to.

Matters are even more complicated when there are issues with de facto partners and step-children.

The example set out above is just one example of what can happen when you don’t have a Will.  However, there are many other ramifications such as increased legal costs and increased potential for court action which themselves warrant serious consideration.

As hard or unpleasant as it may seem to think about, getting your Will in place is a relatively simple thing you can do to ensure your family are looked after and your assets are distributed according to your wishes when you die. The unpleasantness of facing the issue now would be far outweighed by the difficulties faced by those left behind if you didn’t act!

Catherine Lynch is Director of Cariad Legal. First published on 11 January 2019 – https://mailchi.mp/fa17d6e16886/wow-you-dont-have-a-will-what-happens-if-you-dont?e=26c428de95