Amy wants to know if she needs to make a will to have her wishes fulfilled.
Amy has jewellery she’d like to leave to her family, but she’s not too keen on making a will. So she’s asked YourLifeChoices’ estate planning expert Rod Cunich if she can bypass the red tape and still be assured of fulfilling her wishes.
I really don't have much to leave when I die so I believe that making a will is unnecessary. However, I do have a few pieces of jewellery I would like to go to specific family members. Can I simply write this down somewhere?
A. If you simply leave a note nominating who inherits your jewellery, there is no guarantee each person will receive their gift. Why? First, there is a chance no one will ever find the note (even Wills go missing); but even if the note is read, it would not be binding on anyone. You would have to rely on the person(s) who physically holds your jewellery to honour your wishes. If they refuse to honour your wishes, then your family members might be able to apply to the courts and assert your note is an ‘informal will’. But that is a costly, time-consuming and uncertain road to travel down.
There is one further complication. If you die without a will, there is a statutory will that governs your estate. These ‘intestacy laws’ dictate who receives your estate. The law in your State or Territory (the law varies from State to State) may specify your jewellery has to go to someone other than your preferred beneficiaries.
I recommend you execute an inexpensive formal Will to create certainty, or perhaps give away your jewellery while still alive. The added benefit of gifting before death is that you get to see them enjoy the gift.
Caution: Ensure, however, that you complete the documents correctly; and – critically – that you follow instructions about having your signature witnessed by appropriate witnesses. Some States have a formal statutory document that requires a solicitor or another specified person to witness your signature.
Disclaimer: This information has been provided by Rod Cunich and should be considered general in nature. Seek legal advice before acting on this information.
Rod Cunich is a lawyer with over 30 years of experience who specialises in estate planning. If you have a question for Rod, simply email it to firstname.lastname@example.org