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Make sure you have a will

Published: 30th November 2018

Author: Alice Dombroski, Thomson Wilson

Published in: Fineprint, Summer 2018, No 77

Make sure you have a will

Gives comfort to your family

New Zealanders need to find time to sit down and make sure they have a will. We all know this is important but how many of us don’t get around to it? Recent research by the Commission for Financial Capability has shown that only 47% of Kiwi adults have a will and the figures are worse for women, Māori and Pasifika. This survey of 2,000 New Zealanders found that only 44% of women have wills compared with 51% of men. These statistics are concerning when you consider the devastating effects that not having a will can have on your family.

 

Why should you have a will?

A will is often described as your final letter to your family. We agree with this but would add that your will is a legal document that gives instructions on what you want to happen to your personal assets after your death. Your will can also include matters such as the appointment of guardians for your children, what happens to any family heirlooms, whether you would like to be buried or cremated, or even who you would like to look after your beloved pet. Your will can relieve financial and emotional strain on your family, and help minimise the likelihood of disputes about your estate.

 

What do you need to think about before making your will?

Making a will is a relatively straightforward process, if done correctly. Before coming in to see us you will need to think primarily about who you would like to leave your assets to (any property, cash and personal effects) and who you would like to appoint as the executor/s of your will. Your executors administer your estate and are responsible for carrying out your wishes.

When we meet with you we will talk about your assets, any debts and also names of people, and any charities, to whom you want to leave things, as well as any trusts or relationship property agreements you may have.

We will draft your will and get you to check it. After you have confirmed you are happy with it we will arrange for you to sign your will and for it to be witnessed.

It is also important to keep in mind that when you have a change of circumstance such as a relationship breakdown or the death of a close family member, you should review your will as it may need updating. You should always regularly review your will, say, every five years.

 

What happens if you die without a will?

If you die without a will, it’s called dying ‘intestate’. Having no will can create great uncertainty and stress for your family during an already difficult time. It also means that your family has to make a number of difficult decisions, including who will administer your estate.

What is particularly difficult is that your assets will be distributed in accordance with the Administration Act 1969. This may mean that, in some instances, your assets may not go to the person you would have intended them to go. In a standard situation your assets will be split between your spouse/partner and your children; this has the potential to cause a great deal of difficulty, particularly if there is a blended family situation. To compound matters, dying intestate almost always means that your estate may be subject to costly legal bills simply because there is more legal work involved in an intestacy situation.

Many Kiwis think that making a will is something that they will deal with later but, in many cases, ‘later’ never seems to come. The Retirement Commissioner, Diane Maxwell, has commented that ultimately a will is “an act of love, made in advance” and that “in our last moments, we want our thoughts to be peaceful, happy and reflective, and to feel secure that our will has everything sorted for the people we’re leaving behind”. As far as your family is concerned, it could be the most important paper you ever sign

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