While it’s almost romanticised in the celebrity world, dying young is unfortunately all too common in the real world. Life is unexpected, and it’s important to get things sorted in case the worst should happen.
Not to get too morbid here, but making your wishes known (and made ironclad) before you unexpectedly kick the bucket may not be a bad idea. After all, you may have a few thoughtful arrangements only you would think to make (like ensuring your best friend gets to keep your designer dresses or your favourite neighbour keeps the casserole dish they’re always borrowing).
Ian Field of Aylward Game Solicitors says it’s never too early to think about a will, and you can legally make one from the age of 18. But it’s important to go through an experienced solicitor.
“If you get a DIY will wrong, the consequences can be severe,” he says. “Either it fails completely, or it leads to very expensive litigation that will cause serious arguments amongst your surviving friends and family, and the assets you’ve worked for and accumulated over your lifetime will not be given to the people you want to receive them.”
You may be thinking it’s easy to set out a few guidelines, but Ian says most people would be horrified at the mess and chaos that can result from a will that is unclear or incomplete.
“Frequently people don’t understand what they do and don’t own, what the law says about who can issue a claim against their estate if they don’t make proper provision for them, they don’t understand how to draft the wills to ensure their wishes are clearly set out, they don’t know how to ensure alternative provisions are included to cater to different scenarios.”
By sitting down with a solicitor and putting together an estate plan you can detail exactly what you own, owe and have control over, and then set out a plan to ensure each of those items are dealt with in the most effective way. Appointing a power of attorney is also something to consider, just in case you need someone else to make the tough decisions if you suddenly become unable.
“It’s like an insurance policy, no one really wants to claim on it but everyone is glad they have one if they do,” says Ian. “No one knows what is around the corner, and if you don’t appoint an attorney and you lose capacity then an expensive application to QCAT to appoint a guardian or an administrator is probably what will be needed. You can appoint more than one person and determine whether they must act together or whether they can act separately, and you can place limits on when the attorney can exercise the power and also what actions they can take on your behalf.”
Ian says according to official estimates around half of Australians will die without a valid will. And by not being prepared, in some cases your family and friends won’t have a say.
“What happens is the law decides who should manage and distribute your estate according to the provisions of the relevant act in each state or territory. Exactly what this means in practice depends on which relatives are left behind and how large your estate is, but in the worst case example your assets are taken by the State Government.”
Ian says it’s quite easy to keep your affairs in order, offering three simple steps; “See your solicitor and ensure you prepare a comprehensive estate plan, and implement it. See your financial planner or financial adviser and ensure your insurance arrangements are in place. Keep those arrangements under regular review as life changes.”
Aylward Game Solicitors
Level 4, 183 Wickham Tce, Spring Hill
P 3236 0001