A recent news story reminded me of the importance of having an up to date will.
Like me, you may have read that the Sydney Swans club is arranging a memorial plaque for one of its long term supporters—a man named Royce Skinner who died in 2014.
What makes the story so interesting is that Mr Skinner had no direct family and he chose to bequeath what is believed to be a six-figure sum to the Sydney Swans Foundation.
The thing is, without a formal will in place—and no immediate next of kin, there’s every chance Mr Skinner’s wealth could have ended up in the hands of the state government. But by choosing to make his wishes known in a formal will Mr Skinner has not only provided a valuable legacy to the club he loved, he will be acknowledged for many years to come through the memorial plaque.
It could be a very different story for some 45% of Australians who don’t have a formal will.
When we die intestate (without a will) we can leave behind a mess for families, friends and even business associates to sort out. And if things turn nasty, as they can do, the people who matter most to you could face years of legal wrangling as it’s left to the courts to sort out who inherits your estate.
All this can be avoided by having a will drafted by your solicitor. It will set out what you want done with your property and possessions after your death as well as making provisions for all your dependents including elderly relatives. It gives you peace of mind and provides certainty for family members.
Yes, you can write a will yourself and there’s no shortage of online will kits that cost next to nothing. However it’s not something I usually recommend. For the cost of around a few hundred dollars I think it’s preferable to employ your solicitor to prepare a will. This should ensure it’s written up properly and more likely to withstand legal challenge.
If you already have a will in place, take a few minutes to think about any significant changes to your life over the last year—like the purchase of additional assets, the sale of old ones, or even a shift in your relationships, and consider if your will should be updated in light of these.
Paul Clitheroe is a founding director of financial planning firm ipac, Chairman of the Australian Government Financial Literacy Board and chief commentator for Money Magazine.