The New Year is a good time to make plans for the year ahead, and also a good time to review or make your Will.
Executors are people you appoint in your Will who have responsibility for carrying out your Will, selling property, paying debts and bequests from estate funds, and distributing any remaining assets. Your Will can include additional provisions such as appointing a testamentary guardian for children under 18, specify funeral or burial arrangements, bequests to charity, or other gifts to individuals such as money, jewelry, Taonga, or other effects.
If you do not make adequate provision for your family members, or fail to keep certain promises to reward services or work done, then your Will can be challenged under the Family Protection Act or the Law Reform (Testamentary Promises) Act. These proceedings are both Court matters, and can mean a fairly long and drawn out, bitter, estate dispute.
If you die without a will this is called “intestate”. If a person dies intestate, their surviving partner or partners may not necessarily automatically inherit everything. In fact, the survivor may only be entitled to a portion of the estate, with the remainder distributed amongst other family members in proportions set out by legislation. This is one occasion where surviving partners can invoke the Family Protection Act to increase their share of any assets. This is also another occasion where unpleasant estate disputes can arise amongst those left behind.
There are special signing and witnessing requirements that are critical for a valid Will, and we would not recommend the DIY approach. It is also important to review your Will regularly - particularly if your personal circumstances, or relationship status may have changed.
If you'd like to discuss making or reviewing your Will, contact us and we can post or email a free legal information booklet about making a Will, together with a Will Starter Form.