Do I need a Will?
A Will is perhaps the most important document a person might leave behind on their death. Around 1,500 people in New Zealand die without a Will each year.
Why is a Will so important?
A Will sets out a persons wishes after they die, and nominates a person or persons, called executors, to be legally responsible for carrying out those wishes. Such wishes will include things like:
- The distribution of your assets
- Maintaining and supporting your partner
- Gifts to family, friends and charities
- Appointing a guardian for children
- Transferring assets to a family trust and appointing replacement trustees
- Dealing with company assets
- Burial wishes
Without a Will to guide what you want to happen with your assets, the law decides who will receive your assets and in what proportions (Section 77, Administration Act 1969). For many people, what the law says might be quite different from what you want to happen. Having a Will means your intentions and hopes are clear.
If you do not have a Will it is worthwhile to consider the following:
- Who do I want to ensure is looked after when I pass?
- Do I have any special items I want to give to particular people?
- Do I want to set up a trust when I die or gift money or property to an existing trust?
- Do I want to support a charity or organisation?
- What funeral arrangements would I prefer?
- Who would I trust to be responsible for my assets when I die?
- Who will look after my children when I pass?
- Are my partner and my children provided for?
- What would I like to do with my digital assets (access to social media, shares, bitcoin)?
As your circumstances change you should consider updating your Will. Therefore, if you have had a Will prepared some time ago, you should consider if your Will needs to be updated. If you get married or enter a civil union your will is automatically revoked.
A Will can be challenged
The law recognises that if you have a partner, child and grandchildren they should be acknowledged in your Will when you pass away. If your Will does not adequately provide for your partner, children or grandchildren (and in some circumstances your step-children) then there may be arguments after you die and a Court could be asked to decide what should happen.
Your Will can be invalid if it does not contain certain formalities, or was prepared when you did not have capacity or you were forced into signing it.
Therefore, it is important not only to have a Will, but to ensure that it is well prepared to best give effect to what you want and avoid arguments later on.
Talk to our estate planning team about your options and to obtain the right advice for you.