1. Wills Save Your Family Money
An intestacy, which occurs when someone dies without having made a Will, might cost your estate (and ultimately your family) many times the amount of legal costs which would otherwise be incurred to obtain probate and administer a well-drafted Will. This can be particularly important if you pass away suddenly, leaving debts or business interests which need to be addressed urgently, as executors and trustees named in your Will are able to step in and make important decisions to protect your estate. Also, upon your death a lawyer will usually be engaged to help administer your estate, drawing up the documents required for probate or letters of administration (whereby executors, trustees or administrators are authorized to deal with the assets of your estate), and completing all aspects of distributing and winding up the estate in due course. If there is no Will held at your lawyer's office, additional legal steps, and relevant costs, are usually required before administrators can be appointed to deal with your estate.
2. Wills Reduce Stress On Your Family
If you leave a Will when you die, your family quickly finds out more or less what is available for them. Otherwise, if there is no Will (an intestacy), or your will cannot be found quickly, they may not feel able to plan for their future without you until your estate is distributed. Without a Will, it might be many more months, or, in some cases years, before your estate is finally settled. During this time, your family could struggle for money, and might even have to outlay money for legal costs, such as to fund an application for letters of administration (issued by the Court when there is no Will), or to oppose the claims of other prospective beneficiaries.
3. Wills Tell People You Cared
The fact that you have given proper consideration to the needs of your family and other beneficiaries is itself a comfort to those you leave behind. While beneficiaries of your estate will expect a measure of fairness, they are almost invariably grateful to learn they were important to you in your life. Even disgruntled beneficiaries may be appeased by a careful explanation (usually in the Will itself, but sometimes by way of a separate document) as to why you reached the decisions reflected in your Will. Making a Will is also your opportunity to say what you want to happen with your body or ashes, and to put in place guardianship arrangements for dependent children (depending on the rules applying in the country or state where the Will is signed).
4. Wills Help You Order Your Affairs
In preparing for the possibility of your death, even if it is unlikely to occur for many years, you must take a snapshot of your life as it is now - your family, your assets, your debts, and your priorities. This is often an unexpected, and sobering, benefit of the Will-making process. You may not change your lifestyle as a result, but sometimes people in this situation will consider ways to create better outcomes for dependents, such as by re-arranging business affairs, placing assets into trusts, or creating testamentary wealth through the use of insurance.
5. Wills Give Effect To Your Intentions
It is a common misconception that Wills are often overturned by the Court. In fact, relatively few wills are challenged, and most estates end up being distributed exactly as the testator (the person making the Will) intended. A well-drafted Will takes into account the needs of your dependents, while also prioritizing the people and interests you hold most dear in your lifetime. Even if your Will is challenged, the Court must give appropriate weight to your intentions, as expressed in your Will, before deciding the case.
6. Wills Cost Very Little To Make
Most lawyers charge far less for a Will than the usual hourly rate applying to other work they undertake. We recommend you review your Will at least once every two or three years, typically at a cost between $200 and $300 each time for a basic or standard Will, which equates to less than $2 per week. In most cases, making a will is a relatively simple process: a solicitor meets with you, takes your instructions, and prepares the will document for your signature. If you are concerned about costs, there are ways to bring the price down - for example, using a do-it-yourself Will kit, such as at http://diy-will.kirkebyco.com. However, special care is required to ensure your Will is valid, and the signed document must be stored securely - usually in your lawyer's safe - until it is required.
Note: If your estate is substantial, Will-making may be part of an ongoing succession and estate-planning process, which will involve greater costs than those indicated here.
In summary, by making a Will you have the opportunity to take stock of your life and priorities, and communicate your intentions to those you care about. When there is no will, an intestacy will result, causing uncertainty and extra cost. Making a Will is a simple and inexpensive process for most people.
THIS ARTICLE IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE, DOES NOT COVER ALL CIRCUMSTANCES, AND MAY CONTAIN ERRORS OR OMISSIONS. YOU SHOULD OBTAIN PROFESSIONAL LEGAL ADVICE REGARDING THE LAW RELEVANT TO YOUR OWN SITUATION. NO LIABILITY IS ACCEPTED BY THE AUTHOR OR ANY PUBLISHER OF THIS ARTICLE (TO THE EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW).
Stephen G Bourne MBS LLB - Kirkeby & Co. Lawyers - Australia and New Zealand - http://www.kirkebyco.com
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