10 May Wills for Young People and Informal Wills
We have just acted in a tragic matter which raised two issues. The first as to the need to make a Will regardless of how old you are. The second as to the need to ensure that the Will has been properly prepared. As to the first, our client’s daughter was an athlete who had received many awards locally and internationally. It was a devastating blow to the family when at the age of 33, she died in her sleep. No one could have predicted that event. Unfortunately, probably due to youthful exuberance and a feeling of invincibility, no proper Will had been prepared. One therefore led to the inevitable conclusion, that despite one’s youth, it is essential to have a Will prepared along with the associated documents such as an Enduring Power of Attorney and an Advance Care Directive.
The second issue which arose was in relation to the informal Will. That had a date on it. It contained two paragraphs. In the first, in very simple terms it indicated that 70% of the Estate was to go to the will maker’s mother and 30% to her father.
In the second paragraph, it indicated that should the mother predecease the will maker, then 60% was to go to the father and 40% to the will maker’s sister. It was signed and dated. It was not witnessed. It did not appoint an executor to deal with the estate. All of those criteria, including others, meant that the document did not comply with the requirements of the Wills Act 1936.
In the circumstances, an application had to be made to the Supreme Court to have that document declared to be a Will. That required the preparation and filing of several affidavits and the incurring of Court fees. These were significant amounts. In addition, the family’s grieving was extended due to the time involved in attending to the Court proceedings. One can understand how in the preparation of documents such as affidavits, the family would be constantly reminded of their tragic loss. Finally, during the time taken up in the Court proceedings the Estate could not be dealt with and distributed in accordance with the intentions of the will maker. Most relatives of a deceased person desire to have the estate finalised at the earliest but in this instance, this could not occur.
This case reminds us all of the need to have your estate plan prepared professionally so as to ease the pain that remains after the loss of a loved one. Whilst it is always difficult to predict your long-term future, in some cases your immediate future might also be unpredictable. To have peace of mind and to attend to such matters, please contact us on 08 8212 1322.
Prepared by Eugene Reinboth