Who will get your money?

What happens to your money if you have no will or your will is out-of-date?

After years of hard work, accumulating wealth and paying off debt, many people do not have a will. In fact, this is the case with 47 per cent of adult Australians. Many of the remaining 53 per cent are not aware that their existing wills need updating, as they have become out-of-date and inappropriate for their current circumstances. Rod Cunich of Slater & Gordon explains what happens to your money if you have no will or your will is out-of-date. 

Case study

Mary is an only child who left home at 16 years of age because of abusive parents. She hasn’t spoken to her parents since. After putting herself through university and commencing a career Mary married Joe, a successful young lawyer and one of four children with whom he shares a close bond. In time Mary became part of Joe’s extended family. After eight years of marriage, Mary and Joe were tragically killed in a car accident. Neither of them had a will. Joe, being the older of the two, was deemed to have died first and his wealth notionally passed to Mary. Under the intestacy laws all of Mary’s acquired wealth then passed to her estranged parents—the last people on earth she would have wished to leave her estate.

Do you know?...

If you have no will your assets will be distributed in accordance with a statutory formula regardless of your wishes. Under succession laws former spouses, de factos and in some cases even short-term partners may end up with your estate.

The only things that are certain if you die without a will are:

  • the distribution of your estate will be unnecessarily delayed
  • extra costs will be incurred because an application will have to be made to the courts to appoint an administrator to your estate
  • you will not get to choose who manages your estate
  • you will not get to select who receives your property.

Your family will be left with the additional stress of the uncertainty and the problems associated with managing your affairs when they are already suffering the grief of their loss. It’s not a great legacy to leave behind.

So you tell me, who will get your money? You can prepare a current will ensuring your estate is controlled by someone you trust and that the right assets go to the right people with the minimum of fuss, or you can neglect your will and leave it all in the lap of the gods.

To find out more and to contact your local Slater & Gordon succession planning lawyer please call 1800 555 777.


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    To make a comment, please register or login
    28th Aug 2012
    I have been married twice and have not updated my will from my second spouse as he remarried and I don,t have any wealth apart from furnishings etc n!
    And as its money that I cannot afford to spend as I am totally dependent on the aged pension Just where doe,s that leave my surviving children? If some one could fill me in on these queries I would be thankful! Dotty
    28th Aug 2012
    Dotty, you can do up a will free of charge with the Public Trustees, they will take out fees when your time comes, otherwise a will kit is only $29, and often solicitor's in your area have free Will making days. All the very best.
    28th Aug 2012
    Dotty. It needn't cost much to leave a legal simple will. You can buy a form from newsagents or Australia post and fill it in following the easy steps. Very important to have two witnesses sign together as well as you sign and date etc. My lawyer said providing this is all done and you have named someone to be your executor, it is perfectly legal. This way even if you don't have much to leave it will go to whom you choose. Saves lots of upsets once one passes away.
    28th Aug 2012
    When does a will become "out of date". It was my understanding that they never become out of date and that a will even if found from 20 years previous to death is a legal document. Can whomever wrote this article please explain what you mean by "out of date"

    28th Aug 2012
    Yes please I would like to know as well!
    Debbie McTaggart
    10th Sep 2012
    Out of date refers to a change in your personal circumstances which may not be reflected in your will
    29th Aug 2012
    I believe that a will is valid as long as there isn't a more updated one found, when we update it is usually because there have been changes in the recipients affairs or our personal wishes,I had mine checked and they said it was fine, I made it about 15 years ago,after my husband passed away.
    Makesure you have a certificate of Gaurdianship too as this is so important should you need some one to make sure your wishes are carried out if you become unable to speak or make decisions for yourself.If you dont have this form, then I was told that my affairs could be taken over by a authority my family would not be allowed to make decisions on my behalf, so it is very important.
    Ensure the will and relevant papers are signed and witnessed.
    30th Aug 2012
    thank you sylvia for the info regarding a certificate of gaurdianship ,i have made a will and my son is the executive but if i was in hospital in a coma or unable to make decisions for myself i would like him to be able to do it for me .for instance if it was decided that i was going to be thoroughly disabled and on life support i would sooner be dead .where do i get this certifiactae and can it be an inclusion in my will .suanne