Let’s talk about wills

LET’S be honest, nobody really wants to make a will.

In fact, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, half of all Australians pass away without one.

But what many people don’t realise is that making a will is actually the easy part. It’s what comes next that can often wind up being confusing, complex and stressful.

Let’s break it down to explain a little more about the process.

Firstly, what is a will? Let’s start with the basics.

A will is a legal document that spells out how you’d like your assets to be distributed when you pass away. It also says who is responsible, be it a loved one, a solicitor or an organisation for carrying out your wishes.

Wills do more than just determine where your assets go. They determine who will be provided for when you pass away, so you can continue to look after your loved ones even after you’re gone.

They help executors understand what you want done with your estate and eliminate any disagreements that may happen over your estate. Wills also keep the process of distributing your assets simple, so your loved ones don’t have to cope with mountains of complex paperwork during their time of grief.

Revising your will is just as important as making one. Things change and it’s important your will is kept current with changes such as moving house, marriage or divorce, or if there has been a birth or death in your family.

So, what happens if you pass away without a will?

This is known as ‘intestate’, which means your estate will be distributed under a statutory scheme and this may not reflect what you would have wanted.

An administrator will be appointed by the Court, which is often the closest relative and may be unskilled or actually in conflict with other beneficiaries.

The choice of executor in a will is very important because they are responsible to settle the estate. Executors can be family members, trusted friends, solicitors or an independent specialist Trustee company, such as Tasmanian Perpetual Trustees.

An executor has many duties and responsibilities, including locating the will and speaking to beneficiaries about their options and the process of settling the estate, obtaining legal documents for court, including the death certificate, and ensuring the assets are properly protected while the process of settling the estate is carried out.

This includes things such as arranging adequate insurance for any properties or collecting valuables and income, investing funds, applying for probate (the Court’s order to carry out the will), identifying all assets and liabilities and preparing a statement for beneficiaries, finalising tax obligations and other liabilities, consulting with beneficiaries and being able to mediate beneficiary conflicts and defend any legal claims made against the estate.

For most of us, if asked who we want to be responsible for sorting out our estate after we’re gone, there’s usually an obvious answer. It may be a partner, an eldest child, a brother or sister or a parent.

But as that lengthy list above tells us, being an executor can be quite complex and at times a little confusing. More often than not, it requires very specific skills and experience to manage everything successfully, so here are a couple of things to think about before you appoint your executor.

Does the person you appoint have enough time? Will the person outlive you or be in good health when the time comes? If the person you appoint is benefiting under your will, as well as administering it, will there be any tension with the family?

The executor is also legally liable for the administration and settlement of the estate. This means if anything is not completed properly, the executor is responsible.

Tasmanian Perpetual Trustees was established especially to be an impartial and professional executor and trustee for Tasmanians.

With 130-years’ of experience in wills and estate planning, you will have the confidence of knowing your estate will be managed professionally by local experts.

Appointing Tasmanian Perpetual Trustees as your professional executor is very simple.

For more information, contact senior estate planner Dale Cunningham on 1300 138 044.

Information is current as at 23 November 2017. This is general advice only and does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs and you should consider whether it is appropriate for you.