Canberra lawyers are urging young people to consider making a will to avoid putting their family under added stress in the event of an unexpected death.
Meyer Vandenberg Associate Lawyer Eleanor Heffernan says most people understandably do not want to think about death or wills, so they delay making a will until they buy property or have children, but Ms Heffernan says they need to consider the money they have in superannuation and life insurance, as well as their personal items.
“Many people don’t realise their superannuation policy often has a life insurance policy attached. So even if they think they don’t own much, they may have hundreds of thousands of dollars in their superannuation that should be properly planned for if they die.”
Ms Heffernan says she has seen cases where young people have died and their parents or siblings have had to go through stressful legal proceedings to claim the money.
“Your superannuation policy will ask you to nominate a beneficiary in the event of your death and a lot of single people add their parent or sibling, but you actually cannot nominate them as a beneficiary unless they are in an interdependent relationship with you. When people nominate someone other than a spouse or child, or someone else you can legally nominate, the superannuation companies don’t necessarily follow you up to correct it. This can leave an awful mess for a grieving family,” Ms Heffernan says.
“The message we are trying to get out to everyone is don’t die without a will. If you do, all sorts of unexpected problems can arise. We see all sides of it.”
Ms Heffernan cites a case where a young man who died without a will had been living with a new partner for just four months. She ended up being eligible under legislation to receive his estate of $400,000 when he likely would have wanted it to go to his family.
“As he didn’t have a will, no one knew what he wanted.”
In another case, a young person died unexpectedly and his estranged parents were legally entitled to his estate.
“This person purposely had nothing to do with his parents for years, it was clear there was a lot of animosity there. He may have wanted the money to go to a charity or a friend,” she says, but without a will, their wishes were unknown.
Meyer Vandenberg Partner Tanya Herbertson says many people think they are not rich enough to use a lawyer to make a will and either avoid it, or use a Do It Yourself (DIY) kit from the newsagents.
“The DIY kits are a not a good option,” Ms Herbertson warns.
“I have seen families spend $20,000 trying to fix the outcomes of a DIY will, it is not pretty. If you go and see a lawyer and get a simple will drawn up, you will know that if you do die, your wishes will be carried out and your family can avoid major stress or a bad experience.”
Ms Herbertson says blended families should be clear about their estate plan and seek legal assistance, as should parents who need to nominate guardians for their young children if both parents die.
“Think of making a will as an investment in the future of your loved ones. The last thing a grieving family needs to go through is a nasty experience of a contested will.”
If you are planning to update your will or create your first will, Meyer Vandenberg are hosting a Making a Will – Canberra seminar. The event is a free information session presented by Meyer Vandenberg’s Wills and Estate Team. The team will cover why you need a will and address some of the common misconceptions about wills, with a Q&A session at the end.
The seminar will be held on Wednesday, 18 March 2020 from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm at the Meyer Vandenberg offices in the city. The free seminar is open to the public but bookings must be made in advance.
Bookings via Eventbrite.
For more information visit Meyer Vandenberg Lawyers.
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