A de facto couple had written Wills about ten years ago, which left everything to each other.  When they separated recently, they assumed that because they had separated, their Wills would become invalid and that they wouldn’t need to do anything about them.

They were mistaken.  Separation does not invalidate a Will.

If the couple had been married and had subsequently divorced, then the provisions relating to the other spouse would be void, but even in that case the Will itself would not be.

If the matter of Wills had not been raised with them, they would have had Wills in place that left all of their estates to each other, which was of course not what they intended!

There are a number of situations where you can be caught out when making assumptions about Wills, so it pays to make sure you keep your Will up to date and that you understand what your current Will says.

What happens to my assets when I die?

No matter how straightforward your circumstances, having a current Will ensures that you have legally recorded what you’d like done with your estate, being everything you own and including any debts you owe, when you die.

Contrary to common belief, all estates with any assets worth over $15,000 must go through the Court process, with or without a Will.  However, the process that is involved when you die without a Will can cause long, unnecessary delays in administering your estate. Having a Will is faster and more straight forward as it informs the court how you’d like your estate divided.  Not having a Will can therefore put unnecessary pressure on family when they are already in an emotional state.

Preparing your Will

A Will contains various details, including the following:

  • The name of your executors.  This is the person or persons that you have chosen to look after your affairs once you have died and who you trust to carry out the terms of your Will (see further in the link below);
  • The names of the beneficiaries who you wish to leave your property and belongings to;
  • Details of special belongings or taonga that you may wish to leave to specific people;
  • Details of any monetary gifts that you wish to leave to specific people or organisations;
  • The name(s) of a guardian you appoint to look after your children if you have any (see further below);
  • Details of any wishes you might have about funeral, burial/cremation or organ donation; and
  • The powers that allow the executors to administer your Will.

Everyone’s circumstances are different, and in some cases there will need to be clauses added to your Will about, for example, family trusts or company shareholdings and, if you are leaving someone out of your Will, reasons why you are doing so.

How often should I revise my Will?

Your Will should be revised any time there is a change in your family or personal circumstances. We recommend revisiting your Will at five yearly intervals to ensure that you have made adequate provision for changed circumstances.  Other circumstances of when you should update your Will include marriage, divorce, separation and having children.

Don’t delay!

It is very easy to leave preparing or revising your Will to another day. However, given the nature of the document, when you need it, it will be too late!  Put your wishes in place now with our help!