Being mindful of the fact that many estate claims arise from wills that are unfair, no will at all, or the lack of the capacity of a person to even make a will, it is important people understand that a will is an extremely important document. Many people think that they do not need a will because they own assets jointly with others, their only other asset is their house, or they believe their superannuation fund will pay to the beneficiary that was nominated. But consider the possibility that the other party of the jointly owned asset dies before you, or your house is only in your name, or the superannuation fund beneficiary is not paid the proceeds because the superannuation trustee decides it goes to somebody else or to your estate.
These are all issues that tend to arise which can result in intestacy, or worse good “fodder” for estate claims.
If you die without a will your assets will be distributed according to laws of intestacy.
Some of the best examples of leaving things until it’s too late are:
- Aretha Franklin died without a Will, she has four sons. They have had to file documents with Court noting themselves as interested parties to her 80 million dollar estate. Aretha’s failure to have a Will could see music collaborators and distant relatives fighting for a piece of her estate. This could have been avoided if she had a Will.
- Heath Ledger died in 2008 while making the Dark Knight. He had a Will which left everything to his parents. The problem is, since he made that Will in 2003 – Heath had a child, Matilda. By not updating his Will to accommodate his new circumstances, Matilda got nothing in the Will. Fortunately, Heath’s parents said they would look after her.
- Howard Hughes the eccentric billionaire who founded Pan American Airlines died in 1976 at the age of 70. His Will was discovered at the headquarters of the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City. However, the Will was proved a forgery and his estate was divided, after tax, among his 22 cousins.
- Stieg Larsson who wrote, amongst other titles, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo died in 2004. He too died without a Will. Swedish law dictated his estate be divided between his father and brother. His lifelong partner of 32 years, Eva Gabrielsson received nothing. The family threw her a bone by granting her ownership of the couple’s apartment. Legally, they didn’t even have to do that much.
- Jimi Hendrix died in 1970. He didn’t leave a Will regarding the distribution of his estate. The battle over his estate raged on for more than 30 years for one simple reason. His estate continued to generate money long after his death.
Don’t leave it to the Courts to decide the fate of your assets. Even worse, if you don’t have a Will and there is no next of kin – the Government takes it all as the default. You’ve already paid enough tax in your lifetime, so why give the Government more when you die?