Administering Estates

Make a Will: Don’t Make the Same Excuses as Everyone Else

Tom Mead highlights the importance of having a valid Will and addresses some of the common excuses people often make.

In my experience people give many and varied excuses for not making a Will. Here are some of the more common ones:

1. “I do not have time to visit a lawyer.”

2. “It costs too much.”

3. “I have a blended family and I really do not know where to start or how to decide how my assets should be distributed upon my death.”

4. “Once I have gone, I do not really care what happens to my assets.”

The last excuse, that you do not really care what happens to your estate, is probably the only really sensible reason not to make a Will.  For the vast majority of people however, it is very important how their estate is distributed after their death.  You have worked hard to accumulate those assets during your lifetime – why wouldn’t you want to spend a little bit of time and money making sure that your wishes are made clear as to how the assets are to be distributed after your death?

As to the excuse about not having enough time, for most people with simple estates, it takes somewhere between 30 minutes and 60 minutes for a lawyer to obtain your instructions and advise you how best to arrange the provisions of your Will.  There is then usually a return appointment for the purpose of executing the Will in the presence of two independent adult witnesses, and this can take as little as 20 minutes.  In other words, if your affairs are simple, it could be as little as 50 minutes for you to get your Will done.

The cost of preparing a valid Will is quite minimal, especially when compared with the alternative of leaving your family and loved ones to bear the cost once you’re gone.  It may cost a little more if your affairs are a bit more complicated, or for example if you are in a “blended family” situation, but even then, the cost is miniscule compared to the enormous costs to your estate which can be incurred if you die without having made a Will.

As to the third excuse, which is, in effect:

“my personal circumstances are way too complicated and I wouldn’t know where to start”  the answer is that no matter how complicated your circumstances are, there is always a solution.

I was admitted to practice as a lawyer in December 1985.  I have spent a good proportion of the time since in preparing Wills, handling deceased estates and handling estate litigation.  In my experience if you devote the time to talking through the client’s circumstances, and presenting the various options available, you will always end up with a solution, even in situations where the personal circumstances of the client are very complex.

On the other side of the coin, it is a terrible situation to be in to be taking instructions from the family of a deceased person who failed to make a Will.  I have to break the news to them that applying for Letters of Administration in the estate, and subsequently administering the estate is likely to be a lot more complex, time consuming and thus expensive than if the deceased had taken the trouble to make a Will. Unfortunately, the assets often end up going to persons who the deceased probably would not have chosen.

I really cannot stress enough the importance of making a Will, and taking the time to update your Will from time to time and as circumstances change in your life.

I am able to take most instructions I need by email or over the phone, and if you really cannot get to a TGB office, arrangements can be made for the documents to be emailed or posted out to you so that you can execute them at a time and place convenient to you.

For further information or assistance with your legal matter contact us. You can also start your Will online here.

On August 1, 2017, the Relationships Register commenced in South Australia, giving greater legal recognition to LGBTQI and de facto relationships. To find out how the Register impacts your will click here.