When a person dies without a will, the process of carrying out the final wishes of the deceased can be time consuming, expensive and in most cases, very distressing for family, who are trying to grieve and deal with the loss of a loved one.
In Australia, there are two laws that pertain to wills and estates, they are known as succession law and probate law. When one does die without a will (dying intestate) his or her estate is not transferred to the government. In fact, it is usually distributed family members via a strict criteria. While this is sometimes administered by the State Trustees, it doesn’t always reflect the final wishes of the deceased.
So, if you have a specific desire to see where your money and possessions go after you’re gone or to ensure that your loved ones aren’t left to pick up the pieces, then make sure you have a will. Also, make sure that it is up to date, so that your estate goes to the right people that reflect your current situation or state of mind. And finally, don’t keep it hidden. Hiding you will might sound like a good idea at the time, however when you’re gone, no one will know where it is and it will be more than likely that its contents won’t see the light of day. Make sure the executor of your will knows exactly where the latest copy is.
The key to effective estate planning starts with a valid will that is clear and unambiguous. Not only should it have your final wishes, it should also list where your important documents are. (e.g. Land Titles, share certificates, superannuation funds etc.). This will make life a lot easier for the executor of your will.
Not only do you need an executor of your will, in special circumstances you might need to appoint other decision makers to look after your interests, in case you are unable to. These could be a general power of attorney, set for a specific period of time when you’re unable to make financial or legal decisions. An enduring power of attorney which takes effect only if and when you become incapable of making legal and financial decisions for yourself. Finally, medical power of attorney, who can make medical decisions but not legal or financial decisions, about you if you’re unable or incapable of doing so.