Colette Sexton, news correspondent at The Sunday Business Post, on why you should make a will.
As the saying goes, there is nothing certain in life but death and taxes. Unfortunately, we can’t avoid death but you feel like you paid enough taxes in your life, then a will is the only thing that can ensure your loved ones do not get stung for more tax than necessary after your passing.
Thinking about our impending exit from this earth is not an enjoyable pastime for anyone, but if you want to be responsible, then you must make a will.
By making a will, you can decide who gets your property and belongings; who administers your estate, which is everything you own less your debts; who should look after your children if you and your partner die when they are still under 18; and specify if you would like to be buried or cremated.
The main thing to consider when making a will is who you would like to benefit from it.
“Typically, this is your spouse or partner and children, if you are in a relationship, and family and friends otherwise,” said Bernadette Parte, My Legacy board member and principal at Parte & Associates Solicitors.
Through the Succession Act 1965, the law dictates that you must leave a share in your estate to your spouse or civil partner – one third if you have children and one half if you do not.
“Interestingly, children have no automatic entitlement to a share in your estate, but you must make proper provision for them either during your lifetime or in your will, if they are under 18, in education, or have a disability,” Bernadette said.
For those with children under the age of 18, it is essential to appoint guardians and trustees in a will. Guardians take on the role of ‘legal parents’ and trustees look after the finances.
If a person dies without making a will, they are described as having “died intestate” and their money and property are divided out based on the law in the Succession Act 1965, which automatically passes on to the next-of-kin.
“This applies even if you are cohabiting: no matter how long you have been in a relationship, and whether or not you have children together, if cohabitants do not make wills, their estate will pass on to their next-of-kin. To seek redress in such situations, bereaved cohabitants are compelled to apply to the courts for a share in the estate, causing unnecessary, and completely avoidable, distress,” Bernadette said.
Often, people don’t realise that without a will, their relatives may benefit from their estate over the heads of a loved one, Bernadette said.
“Not all of us get on with our in-laws, and would not wish to leave a part of our estate to them. But if your parents have died, and you have married brothers or sisters, both they and their spouses may benefit from your estate if you do not make a will.”
If both parents die, and guardians and trustees have not been appointed, the courts may have to decide who would be best to look after your children and your finances.
“A judge may not pick the person or people you would have chosen,” she said.
So while it might not be a fun use of your time, making a will is a vital way to protect your loved ones. They will already be dealing with the pain of losing you – adding financial headaches on to that is just not fair.