Wills. They’re not something we generally like talking about!
Most of us feel pretty uncomfortable about the idea of planning for our death. Understandably so, of course we don’t want to think about that happening any time soon! But the reality is that it is something we do need to prepare for.
Fingers crossed that we won’t need a Will for a very long time – but having one in place if the unexpected happens will take a whole lot of stress away from your loved ones.
Around 47% of adult New Zealanders do not have a will. Many of us don’t have a Will because we say we don’t have anything of value… so who cares.
Well to be frank, a Will is only partly about what you want to happen with your body, assets and chattels on your death. These are just things, and you are dead so you may or may not care. A more important reason for having a Will, in my view, is about making things easier for those that are left behind. If you have left even simple instructions, a Will can make the lives of those you leave behind just a little less painful, giving them time and space to grieve rather than needing to deal with annoying legal issues.
So what exactly is a Will?
A Will or Last Will and Testament is a legal document that determines:
What to do with your body – buried or cremated
Who gets your assets – this includes property, cash, and investments including your KiwiSaver
Who the Executor of your estate is – this is the person or persons who hand out your property as set out in your will. Not necessarily your partner.
But what happens if you don’t have a Will?
If you die without a Will, this is called dying “intestate” and this means that your assets will be distributed according to the rules laid down by the NZ Administration Act 1969. To access the assets your loved ones will need to apply to the High Court to seek “Letters of Administration”, where the High Court appoints someone to administer and distribute the deceased’s estate (assets and debts).
Section 77 of the Administration Act determines who gets what.
The proposed executor needs to apply to the high court for probate. “Probate” is a court order recognising a Will as authentic and it confirms that the executor has the legal authority to deal with the deceased’s estate. Once probate has been granted it can take 6-12 months for any claims to be made against the estate before any distribution of the assets can go ahead.
By having a Will it can speed up some of this process, but can still take over 6 months to wait for and assess any claims.
Probate or letters of administration are not required if your total assets are less than $15k, including all your main assets such as funds in bank accounts, shares, KiwiSaver, Cryptocurrencies, life insurance policies, stocks, and bonds.
Most of you will be over that threshold of $15k. If your situation fairly straightforward we can assist you with a Will. If it’s more complicated we can put you in contact with lawyers who can help you get sorted. Don’t be part of the 47% that cause anguish to those you leave behind.
Got questions? Get in touch with us and we can chat about your best options for paying off your mortgage, buying your first home, or getting your Will sorted.