One of the most important documents you will ever sign in your life is your Will. Do you have a Will? And if you do, is your current Will up to date?
In your Will, you appoint the people who you trust to administer your estate (called ‘executors’), and you set out how you want to distribute your assets between your preferred beneficiaries.
If you die without a Will in Queensland, you have died ‘intestate’. The intestacy rules are contained in the Succession Act 1981 (Queensland). The intestacy rules distribute estate property in certain proportions to the deceased’s next of kin in a particular order (starting with the deceased’s spouse and children/grandchildren, or if none of those are surviving, then to their parents, then siblings, and so on). Friends and charities cannot receive any assets under the intestacy rules.
A lot of people wrongly assume, for example, that their spouse will simply inherit all of their estate if they die without a Will. However, the intestacy rules provide that a spouse only inherits the first $150,000 of the estate plus household chattels, and one-half or two-thirds of the remaining estate (depending on how many children the deceased may have). This outcome may not be ideal for a lot of families, depending on their financial situation, and family dynamics.
If you die without a Will, you have not appointed an executor to manage your estate and distribute your assets. Instead, an administrator needs to be appointed to administer your estate. While administrators have similar roles to executors – they can collect in assets, pay debts, and distribute the estate to beneficiaries – an administrator only has authority if the Supreme Court of Queensland has granted them Letters of Administration. This exercise can be costly to your estate.
Thoughtful and sensible estate planning with your Solicitor can minimise the costs that your estate may incur, and help avoid lengthy delays in finalising your estate. By preparing a valid Will, you will ensure that your assets are left to the people who you want to benefit when you die, and that your assets are managed by the people who you trust the most.