We often hear people (particularly younger people) asking this question, some saying that they do not see the point of putting a Will in place as they don’t have children or dependents.  Equally, some people are not particularly worried about where their belongings go after they pass away, or they have not thought that far ahead.

There are several reasons why people should put Wills in place, one of the most compelling being that it can save your family some additional stress during a very upsetting time.

When you pass away, your estate will be made up of all of your assets.  This includes your KiwiSaver, any bank accounts in your name, your car, your jewellery and clothing, and any other assets you hold in your own name (excluding jointly owned assets). 

If you have financial assets that are individually worth more than $15,000 (such as life insurance, bank accounts or your KiwiSaver) then those assets cannot be released without applying to the Court for Probate of your Will. This threshold will now mean that more and more young Kiwis who started contributing to KiwiSaver in their teenage years will need to ensure they protect those assets by making a Will.

Equally, as many people (especially younger people) now have social media accounts, it's important to leave directions for dealing with those in your Will.

If you have a Will in place, your assets will be distributed in accordance with your wishes.  If you do not have a Will in place, your assets are distributed in accordance with a set formula under the Administration Act (which only takes into account immediate family members).  

When a person dies intestate (without a Will), and they have any assets individually worth more than $15,000, in order to receive the deceased's assets the whānau need to apply to the High Court for Letters of Administration.  This can be costly, and can take some time to obtain. 

The process includes carrying out a formal Wills search, to prove that there was no Will in place at the time of death, and providing evidence of this search to the High Court. Notification is also required to be given to Births Deaths and Marriages, who provide information on any children of the deceased.

Once the whānau have obtained Letters of Administration, they are able to gather in and distribute the assets of the person who has passed away in a set formula under the Administration Act. 

Wills generally also cover guardianship of children, as well as personal wishes in relation to your funeral arrangements, burial or cremation, and organ donation. 

No matter how simple you think your situation is, or how few assets you think you have, it is very important to create a Will, so those left behind know your wishes.  Your experienced legal advisor will be able to help to create a Will to reflect your circumstances.