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Is Your Will In Order?

Is your Will in order? This is an important question everyone needs to be asking themselves, because either not having a Will or having an out-dated one can have a number of serious implications.

A Will is a legal document in which a person specifies the way in which their estate will be handled following their death. There are a number of reasons for having a will, including:

  • To give directions for dividing your estate between family, loved ones, or charity
  • To give instructions regarding your funeral
  • To permit for your body to be donated to science or your organs donated
  • To ensure your beneficiaries are protected in case of any adverse possibilities, such as maritial breakdown, illness, etc
  • To address complicated family situations (particularly blended families)
  • To properly distribute any shares of a company or partnership you may have
  • To repay loans incurred during your lifetime
  • To ensure your wishes and instructions are clear and to reduce the risk of your Will being challenged

Despite the clear importance of having a Will, statistics show that about 45% of Australians do not have a valid Will. When someone dies without a Will, this means they die “intestate”, meaning that legally speaking no one knows whom they wanted as their beneficiaries or executor. Dying intestate means that a pre-determined formula will be used to divide up that person’s estate. The most simple example is that in NSW, if a person dies without a Will and they have a spouse who survives them by at least 30 days, then they automatically inherit the estate. This includes de facto relationships and operates regardless of whether the relationship bore any children. It should be stressed that this is the most simple scenario imaginable—for example, when children from previous relationships exist, things become immediately more complicated.

To this end, while a Will is very important for everyone, it is particularly critical for people in defacto or same sex relationships to have a Will. This is because if someone in a defacto or same-sex relationship dies without a Will, their loved-ones will have the added burden and stress of having to meet the legal requirements for proving the relationship, at a time where they are already grieving.

Even though most people realise the importance of keeping a Will, it is important that a Will is able to be found when required. The original Will should be kept in a safe place—such as your solicitor’s office—and you should keep a hold of several copies for your records. Ensure that the people close to you are aware of your Will and importantly, who your solicitor is.

If someone owns assets overseas, it is possible to create an “international Will” will be accepted in most jurisdictions. An international Will is a good idea if someone has most of their assets in NSW but then has a minor secondary bank account in another country. However, if someone has more substantial assets across more than one country, we advise making sure that a valid Will is in place in each separate country.

It is important that everyone has a legally valid, up to date Will in place to ensure that in the hardest of times for your family things can run as smoothly as possible and no unneeded stress is added. You should seek the appropriate professional advice relating to your individual personal and financial circumstances—remember, you are never too young or “risk-free” not to need a Will! To ensure that your wishes and instructions are followed after your death, talk to one of Harris Gomez Group’s experienced lawyers today.

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Harris Gomez Group is a Common Law firm, with offices in Santiago, Bogotá, and Sydney. We also have legal teams in Mexico, Peru, Brazil and Argentina. Over the last 15 years we have been supporting foreign companies with their growth in Latin America and Australia. Many of our clients are technology companies, service providers and engineering companies that focus on the mining, energy and infrastructure markets.

To better understand how we can support your management team in the Region, please contact Cody Mcfarlane at cmm@hgomezgroup.com