By Sebastian Hill
For your estate plan to be as effective as possible, it needs to be as up to date as possible. Quality estate planning is like having insurance in place for your family. It is insurance which protects the distribution of your assets, and ensures it’s done in the way you want. It also reduces the likelihood of family disputes arising, and unnecessary legal hurdles for your family after you die.
Not every life change needs to be updated in your estate plan, however there are some key changes which will most likely mean it’s time to update your will. Some of these life events include births, deaths, marriages, and changes in assets.
What can happen if you die with an outdated will?
Jean* died with an outdated will whereby the two Executor’s she had listed were unable to act because they had aged and lost capacity. There were also beneficiaries listed who had passed away and could no longer receive their entitlements.
Jean’s niece, our client, was the next person in line to be the Executor. She was required to take responsibility in dealing with the Public Trustee to prove the lack of capacity of the past Executors, and that the beneficiaries had died. The Estate took an additional 6-months to be distributed and cost the family considerable amounts of time and money.
*Names changed for privacy
How to know if you should update your will
Look at your current will and assess if the directions reflect your current position of what you’d like to happen when you are no longer here. Here are ten considerations which might prompt an update:
- Change of mind – You might have changed your mind about who you have elected as your Executor, Substitute Decision Maker, Beneficiaries, etc. You may have also changed your mind about how you want to allocate your assets.
- Relationship status – Have any of your relationships changed? Such as entering a new relationship, married, re-married, divorced, or separated? If you are separated from a spouse but not divorced, they could still be legally entitled to your assets if your will is not updated.
- New family members – Have any children or grandchildren joined the family and need to be accounted for in your will?
- Health or disablement – Your medical needs may have changed, and you might need to nominate an enduring power of attorney or substitute decision maker. You might also need to make care provisions if you have dependants. Conversely, someone included in your will might have lost their ability to execute their responsibilities, meaning a new person will need to be elected.
- Deaths – We sincerely hope you haven’t had to face this, however if anyone elected in your will as an Executor or beneficiary has since died, this will now need to be updated in your estate plan.
- Changes in financial circumstances – If you have new assets in your name, or if you’ve experienced a significant increase or decrease in your estate, an update is required.
- Cash donations or gifts – What was once a substantial cash legacy in your will, might no longer be in real terms. With inflation on the rise, you may need to update any fixed sums in your will to a percentage instead.
- Gift allocation – Have you bought any artefacts or items which you intend to be inherited by specific beneficiaries?
- Ownership structures – If you own a business, entity, or asset whereby the ownership structure has changed, your estate plan should reflect this.
- Expressed wishes – Are your funeral instructions (burial/cremation) or other wishes after you die in line with your current wishes?
If any of the above changes have occurred in your life, we highly recommend you consider updating your will. You can provide us your instructions today via our online questionnaire here. If you prefer to speak to us over the phone, give our friendly customer service team a call on 07 8632 2777.