Getting divorced can be stressful and involve a lot of paperwork, but have you stopped to think about reviewing your will and other estate arrangements? Here are a few reasons why you need to keep your will up to date, especially after some of the bigger life-changing events, like divorce, marriage, or births.
Ensure your wishes are followed
Our lives are constantly changing. We grow up, we get married, we have children, grandchildren, get divorced, remarried, create wealth, buy houses, make investments, get sick, accumulate assets, and then, of course, we’re all going to die someday. The trouble is, we don’t know when. That is the reality of life for almost all of us.
Let’s start by saying that if you die without a will, legislation will determine who’ll administer your estate and decide who gets your assets. That may, and will probably not be, what you were actually wanting.
Dying with an outdated will can also be equally problematic, and have serious repercussions on your family and how your estate will be administered. To ensure your wishes are followed, you need to keep your will up to date at all times.
Less stress on your family
Having an up to date reflects your current circumstances and wishes, ensures that your loved ones will be taken care of when you die, and removes the stress not only for you but for your entire family.
Sadly, it’s fairly common for family disputes to arise when there is no will in place or when it is not up to date. It’s not unusual for former spouses or others to contest your wishes and try to lay claim to your assets that were meant for your loved ones, simply because you had not updated your will. Even if they do not succeed, it will certainly delay the process and your next of kin’s access to their inheritance.
It’s hard enough for a family having to deal with the loss after you die, without having to deal with the stress of searching for and processing all the relevant documents. It is therefore imperative that your family or next of kin know exactly where your will and all supporting documents, such as bank accounts, investments, life or prepaid funeral policies, property deeds and details of your superannuation are kept.
Children are cared for
Ensuring one’s children are well catered for in the event of your death, is arguably a huge concern for any family, and there are so many possibilities that one needs to consider when drawing up a will.
For instance, if both parents die, and there are young children, how will they be taken care of and who will look after them? Should a Trust be set up until they reach a certain age? Who will manage it?
These are just a few possibilities that could happen to anyone at any time.
When should you update your will?
Wills must be updated whenever your circumstances change. These life events can include any changes in a relationship, whether through marriage, separation/divorce, having children or grandchildren, the death of a beneficiary, executor, or guardian named in your will, a serious sickness to you or a family member, or any significant financial changes.
Financial changes may be the purchase or a sale of a property or business, or a new investment.
What other documents should be updated?
Equally important, is to keep all documents and contact details relevant to your estate updated at all times. Such documents would include, firstly, your power of attorney, your Binding Nomination for your superannuation, which stipulates to whom it will be paid, and any Family or Testamentary Trusts you may have. It is absolutely critical that any changes of Trustee(s) nominated in the abovementioned documents, must be updated immediately.
Furthermore, you may have to update any new medical directives, such as who can make decisions about your health should you be incapacitated, or any other request as to what you would want to be done with your body after you die.
By talking to an experienced Estate Planner will put your mind at ease by assisting you to draw up a will specifically tailor-made to meet your and your family’s needs.
Ella Hickman is the owner and Principal of Hickman Family Lawyers, one of the leading family law firms in Perth. She practices almost exclusively in family law in Perth and has a particular interest in parenting and children’s issues, matters arising from domestic violence in relationships, and property settlement cases.
She has a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts (majoring in Psychology) from the University of Western Australia and has been practising as a barrister and solicitor since 2014.