While no one wants to consider their own mortality, having a Will prepared is one of the most important things you can do for your family. With a Will, you decide who will receive your property and assets, and your loved ones won’t be left guessing or arguing over your intentions.
Essentially, a Will gives you three powers. It enables you to choose your executor, divide your estate as you see fit, and determine guardianship of your minor children. Without a Will, you risk leaving your loved ones with unintended effects and unresolved questions that could damage your family’s interests or divide your family members forever.
A Will gives you the power to choose an executor best suited to the role. The role of an executor carries significant responsibilities and can involve substantial time and effort. If you expect the role might be too much responsibility for a friend or family member, you could consider appointing a trust company instead. A Will gives your family members peace of mind that they will not have to decide amongst themselves who should be the executor of your estate.
A Will also ensures that your children receive their inheritance at an appropriate time. If you have no Will, by law your children would inherit at age 19. While this may be an appropriate solution for some, you may consider your children too young to manage money independently at such an age, especially without the guidance of the people they trust the most – their parents. By having a Will, you ensure that funds will be distributed only for important expenses like housing, education, and the necessities of life until your children reach a more mature age when they’re in a better position to manage their inheritance.
Most importantly, a Will gives you the power to determine guardianship for your minor children. If you do not make this choice yourself, you will be leaving it to your surviving family members to try to decide among themselves as to who an appropriate caregiver might be and to bring a court application for a guardianship order. Until a court order is granted, the Public Guardian and Trustee will be the guardian of your children. If your family members cannot agree on who should be appointed as guardian, then they may end up arguing over it in court.
If you have no Will, the laws of intestacy will apply, which may not provide you with the result you want. You might expect that your spouse will receive everything when you die. However, if you and your spouse have children together, then your spouse will receive the first $300,000 of your estate but only half of the balance. Your kids will receive the rest, split evenly between them. If your children are minors, they would receive their share when they turn 19. If your children are not all of the marriage, then the amount your spouse receives as a priority is even less: $150,000.
Preparing a Will can be overwhelming, but the lawyers at Hamilton Duncan can help you through the process. With over 60 years of experience, we have the expertise and knowledge to ensure your Will protects your family’s interests. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with myself, Jamie, or anyone here at the firm.