What happens if you don’t leave a legally binding will?

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Why create a legally binding will?

It’s never nice to think about your own departure from this life, but failing to accept the inevitable can leave your family struggling after you’re gone.

The process to create a will does take some time and investment, but gives priceless peace of mind.

If you don’t leave behind a will, here’s what can happen:

  • Your wishes won’t be honoured: If you don’t leave a legally binding will, you run the risk of the government taking control of your legacy and declaring you intestate. Intestacy means that your affairs are turned over to a court-appointed executor. They have power and are legally required to distribute your assets between your closest kin. Money and assets may go to estranged family members or someone who you do not believe is deserving of it.
  • You leave behind a mess: Not having a will can leave a tangle of finances and assets behind that has to be dealt with by your loved ones. If you have complicated affairs and debts, your family will go through considerable trouble while they are grieving, which is far from ideal.
  • It’s not just money: Assets and personal belongings can also come into play. More significantly, custody issues can arise. A biological father who has been out of the picture, for instance, may have more legal standing than a step-father who has raised the children from a young age. If you have minors in your care and you don’t leave a will, they may find themselves in the care of someone inappropriate.
  • Family may fight: Family members often disagree and contest a will, but if it has been prepared correctly, it will be harder to prove that they are entitled to more than you have laid out.
How to create a legally binding will

A will makes your passing less traumatic for your family and loved ones so at the very least you should write your wishes on a document and have it signed by a witness.

Keep in mind that DIY will kits may be easy to use, but they don’t cover more complex issues. It makes sense to get professional help to create your will if:

  • You have had a marital status change like getting married, divorced or separated
  • You want to include your children or a new partner
  • You want to accommodate step-children or other dependants not related by blood
  • There is complexity around the taxation of estate assets
  • You have specific items you want to pass on to certain people
  • You want your superannuation to end up in the right hands
  • You have joint assets with someone else
  • You manage or control companies or trusts
  • You are concerned about where your pet/s will end up after you pass away
  • You want to include specific clauses covering different potential situations (e.g. what will happen if someone you leave funds to is not able to accept them)
Getting started

To start the process of creating a will, speak with your significant other so you can make some decisions together, then work with a professional to have everything prepared correctly.

Loop in family and loved ones to keep them informed about how your wishes will be carried out after you pass away. The more groundwork you do, the smoother the transition and distribution of assets will be when you are gone.

Remember that you can’t please everyone. Don’t let anyone sway you from what you believe is fair and just. It is your will and your choice, and you don’t necessarily have to share your intentions if you don’t want to.

Want advice on preparing a legally binding will and deciding what to include in it? Reach out to Edge Advisory Partners today.

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