Where there’s a will, there’s peace of mind

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A Will is an important document that is often put in the ‘when I get around to it’ box. Your Will sets out how you’d like your property to be dealt with when you die (your estate) and who you want to carry out your wishes (this person is called your executor in your Will).

Dying without a Will is called ‘dying intestate’. Dying intestate means your loved ones will need authority from the Court before they can deal with your estate, which can cause costly delays at a sad time. The Court will appoint someone to deal with your estate (an administrator) and this may not be the person you would have chosen. in addition, your administrator will distribute your estate according to a set formula. Let’s look at two scenarios to see how an estate may be dealt with, with no Wills in place.

Ryan and Shelly

Ryan and Shelly are a middle-aged married couple with no children. They have some jointly owned property but also have their KiwiSaver accounts, other investments and savings in their individual names which are all valued over $15,000. Shelly’s parents Paul and Christine are both alive and well and live 10 minutes down the road from Ryan and Shelly. Sadly, Shelly passes away after a short illness. Ryan and Shelly had never quite got around to preparing and signing Wills with their lawyer. Shelly dies intestate, so Ryan needs to apply to the Court in order to distribute Shelly’s KiwiSaver, investments and savings account.

Under the Administration Act, Ryan is entitled to all of Shelly’s personal belongings (chattels). However, the rest of her estate (her KiwiSaver, investments and savings account) must be divided between Ryan, and Shelly’s parents, Paul and Christine. Ryan will receive two-thirds of Shelly’s estate with the remaining third to be given equally to Paul and Christine. This comes as a shock to Ryan. While he and Shelly had a great relationship with her parents, he knows they are comfortable financially and now he will need to take on the burden of his mortgage on his own.

Sarah and Harry

Sarah and Harry are also a middle-aged couple. They have two children, who are both young adults with growing careers. Like Ryan and Shelly, Sarah and Harry haven’t prepared Wills. When Harry suddenly passes away in an accident, Sarah finds herself having to apply to the Court to distribute Harry’s KiwiSaver and personal savings to herself. Sarah knows she will need to rely on these funds to help her pay the mortgage, particularly while she works reduced hours as she copes with Harry’s passing. Sarah is surprised to learn that she is not entitled to receive all of Harry’s KiwiSaver and personal savings. Sarah will receive the first $155,000 of Harry’s estate and then one third of the rest of Harry’s estate. The remaining two-thirds are to be given to their two children. This is a real shock to Sarah and she knows this is not what Harry would have wanted.

While we don’t like to think about death, ultimately it is the one life event that happens to everyone! Dying without a Will can not only add further stress to your grieving loved ones, it can also result in your estate being distributed according to a set formula, rather than according to your wishes.

It is important to take a moment to think about how you’d like your estate to be distributed. Your lawyer can help make sure you’ve covered everything and that your Will is executed properly, to make things easy for those you leave behind (and reduce the risk of it being challenged).

How can we help?

If you need to prepare a new will, or update your current will, WRMK Lawyers’ experienced team can help. If you’d like advice about your will, relationship property, or estate planning arrangements, our friendly team of experienced local life planning lawyers are happy to help.

Our thanks to Rebecca Pavis for writing this article, which was first published in the Mangawhai Focus in May 2024