New Year, New Will 2020!

A new Will may not be the first thing on your new year’s resolution list, however, it is very important to consider. If you do not have a Will or your circumstances substantially changed in 2019, the fresh new year is a good time to organise your estate planning. An outdated Will can be as problematic as having no Will at all. It is important to take time to consider how you would like your estate to be distributed and whether this is reflected in your current Will.

In 2019, we saw estate disputes (and the length of such disputes) on the rise. This is reflective of the last decade and a likely result of the number of blended families continuing to grow. One recent example of this is Olivia Mead, daughter of Perth mining billionaire, Michael Wright. Mead made a claim against her father’s estate and was initially granted an increase in her distribution from $3 million to $25 million. On appeal, her distribution was reduced to just over $6 million. Mead was later refused leave to appeal the decision to the High Court.

However, it is not just large estates that attract disputes. In McDonald v O’Connor [2019][1] a provision was made with the court commenting that “the value of the estate, whilst modest, is sufficient to make modest provision for all”.

This signifies a real need to prioritize solid estate planning regardless of your financial status. As we enter 2020, Griffin Legal is able to assist you in preparations that will save your family and friends a lot of stress when you pass. Estate planning is not something that should be set aside for ‘one day’ because unfortunately, no one knows exactly when it will be required.

Why make a Will?

Making a Will is the best method of providing for your loved ones after your death. Sometimes people think that they are not wealthy enough to bother making a Will but the total value of a home, car, savings and life insurance policies may be substantial. If you do not leave a Will, your property will be distributed according to a pre-determined and strict formula that may mean your assets are not distributed in the way you would have wanted. This could have severe financial implications for your beneficiaries. 

In addition, the legal procedures following your death in the absence of a Will are more complicated and time-consuming, which may be an additional burden and expense for your family at an already stressful time.

When should a Will be updated?

A Will expresses your wishes at a particular point in time. Griffin Legal recommends that you review your Will on a regular basis to update and capture any changes in your circumstances so that your wishes are accurately represented in your Will.

Wills should be reviewed following any significant changes in family, life or finances such as:

  • if you marry, divorce or separate;
  • if you have children or grandchildren (including adopted and fostered children);
  • if you enter into a de-facto relationship;
  • if your executor dies or becomes unable or unwilling to act;
  • if a beneficiary has passed away;
  • if you have rearranged your financial affairs to include family trusts, self-managed super funds or entry into a new business venture; or
  • if you have had a change in your financial circumstances such as retirement or winning the lottery!

Minor changes to your Will can be made using a “Codicil” which is an addition to a Will.  This saves you having to completely remake your Will.

Why should you consult an estate planning solicitor?

Most solicitors can put together a simple Will. Estate Planning solicitors, however, comprehensively review your asset position. For example, did you know that all your assets may not fall into your estate and be dealt with by your Will?

Superannuation death benefits (including benefits from self-managed superannuation funds), life insurance policies and jointly-held property are usually “non-estate assets” that may need to be carefully reviewed and structured separately from your Will. This is called an estate plan.

So this year, Griffin Legal encourages you to make a legal new year’s resolution! Commit to the preparation of a new Will. Our estate planning team have the knowledge to guide you and the skills to prepare a new Will which reflects your intentions clearly. To get started on a new Will simply complete the Fact find available at this link or contact our office here. We look forward to assisting you with your estate planning needs.

[1] NSWSC 261

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