Does Friday the 13th make you feel uncomfortable? Are you worried that you will be cursed with bad luck for walking under a ladder or breaking a mirror? Do you throw salt over your shoulder or knock on wood after mentioning your good fortune to prevent bad luck following?
If you answered yes to any of the above, you are one of many. You may also then be inclined to avoid preparing your Will out of fear that it will bring forward your inevitable fate. As a wills and estate lawyer this is something I often hear when I ask why someone has avoided preparing their Will.
Because of this reoccurring excuse, I decided to look into where did superstitions originate from and the answer appears to be that superstitions originated centuries ago when our ancestors where searching for answers in order to understand mysterious or unexplainable events.
For example, before science could explain why we can see our reflection in a mirror or our shadow in the sun, it was believed that our reflection was part of our soul. Like many other superstitions that have been disproven by science we know this is not true. However, despite the development of science it seems that some of these superstitions have survived the passage of time and for the most part this is not a problem.
However, when it causes individuals to put off preparing their Will, this causes me great concern. As we know, a Will is a document in which you direct what happens to your assets when you are no longer with us.
If you pass away without a valid Will in place, also known as dying ‘intestate’, the law will determine how your assets are distributed, not your family as you may have previously thought. Your family will have to go through the costly process of applying to the Supreme Court Registry for ‘Letters of Administration’ which will give your family the authority to distribute your estate but not to decide who gets what portion of your estate.
Unfortunately, where an individual passes away intestate, the law is clear on how your estate will be distributed and often the outcomes are not what you would have wanted, and are likely to cause hardship to your family. For example:
- If a married couple, without children, separate but never formally divorce, the surviving spouse will receive the entire estate. This is despite potentially having been separated from the deceased for many years;
- If a married couple, with children, has been separated for many years but never formally divorced the laws of intestacy provide that the surviving parent would receive the first $100,000.00 of the estate and 50% of the balance. Despite the fact that parent may have played little or no role in raising the children.
- If a young man or woman passes away, unmarried and without children. Their estate will be received by their surviving parents. Should their parents be on the aged pension, receiving the inheritance will increase their asset pool and ultimately impact on their aged pension entitlements.
The above examples are just some of the many problems that arise when someone dies intestate. In my view, it gives a good indication that the only thing you can be sure of is that by passing away without a will bad luck and hardship are likely to follow your loved ones.
Furthermore, if puts your superstitious mind at ease, I can confidently verify that I have no seen a shortened life span in the large number of clients I have prepared Wills for.
If you need to prepare you Will or update an old Will get in touch with our experienced Wills & Estates team.