Your Will

Did you hear the one about the lack of a valid Will, which led to interference with a corpse?

This heading probably sounds way too far-fetched to be real, but unfortunately, this really did happen!

An extraordinary case was recently heard in a Sydney court which saw a man being charged with interference with a corpse after cutting the ear off his dead brother.

How is this relevant and why are we sharing about it?

Well, the deceased brother in this case died without a valid will. Not having a valid will meant the rules of intestacy must be followed. Although this case happened in NSW, we have outlined the South Australian intestacy rules in the table below (they differ slightly between the States and Territories of Australia).

Dying without a valid Will may mean that your assets will not be distributed in line with your wishes. As you can see from the table below, it may even pass to people with whom you have little or no contact if your immediate next of kin have died before you.

Because of this, it is important to ensure your true wishes are reflected in your last Will and testament. Leaving behind a well-constructed Will can also ensure that your estate is distributed as quickly and efficiently as possible.

SA Rules of Intestacy

The facts of this case

In this case, the son of the deceased, as his next of kin, stood to inherit the whole of his estate under the NSW intestacy rules. The brother of the deceased had long suspected that his nephew was illegitimate (ie, not actually his brother’s son), and did not want him to inherit the family money.

And so, the elaborate plot to chop the ear off the dead brother to obtain DNA was hatched.

How did he do this? He snuck into the funeral home prior to the funeral, cut off his brother’s ear, and stored his brother’s ear for a period of time in a glass jar in his freezer to attempt to prove his theory.

The moral of the story is that this could have been prevented with a valid Will!

So what ARE the consequences of dying without a valid Will?

  • There is a lack of control over what happens to your assets. Your assets can only be distributed in accordance with the rules of intestacy (these rules slightly differ from State to State/Territory). Your wishes may not be followed.
  • A great deal of stress is caused for your loved ones.
  • The legal process of intestacy is generally more time consuming and costly, meaning your loved ones will be dragged through a lengthy process, and will incur more costs.
  • Often, when someone dies without a valid Will, it leads to disputes between family members.

It is important to have an up to date will to ensure that there are no unintended consequences arising from the administration of your estate.

Having a valid Will means your wishes are carefully maintained and described to create certainty amongst your loved ones so that an unfortunate desperate situation like above doesn’t happen in relation to your estate.

The last thing we would ever want is for a relative to feel the need to go to such extreme lengths, and they will not need to as long as your wishes are written properly and precisely.

What should I do?

If you haven’t yet written a Will, now is the time to cross that off your to-do list!  Or you might have a Will that needs amending. No matter what your situation, TGB can help with any aspect of your estate planning and can make sure your Will is set out in accordance with your wishes, to avoid future stress, excessive cost or uncertainty for your loved ones.

Get in touch with us today to talk about your Will and any other estate planning needs. With experienced and caring Wills & Estates lawyers in SA, WA, NT and QLD, we can assist you with any of your Wills & Estates needs.

Visit our website to find your nearest office and have a chat to us today.