What will your legacy be?

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Anyone that has listened to, or was as fortunate as our own Christie Howson to experience live in concert, knows the amazing talent of the incredible musician and creator Prince. Across the world many are still mourning his loss.

One unfortunate legacy however this extraordinary man left behind is the large mess he has created for his loved ones – Prince did not leave a will.

Court hearings have been held to determine the fate of Prince’s estate estimated to be worth about $300 million.  Minnesota state law provides that because Prince did not leave a will his entire estate will go to his sister and half siblings.    It is reported that initial meetings between the siblings was contentious and ended in shouting.   This is not surprising as these family members will control Prince’s brand including his record label and thousands of unreleased songs.   Dividing up the assets is likely to get messy – it’s one thing to divide up dollars but how do you divide up a guitar collection or “Purple Rain” amongst the people the law prescribes will take the benefit of Prince’s estate – and what happens if agreement cannot be reached on how to use or sell those assets?   Lengthy, costly litigation is the likely result.

Whilst you may not have an estate approaching the value of Prince’s you still need to plan ahead.   This means engaging a solicitor to draft an appropriate and effective will for your circumstances.   An effective will ensures your beneficiaries end up with more in their pockets as it will be unlikely that money from your estate will have to be spent on expensive court proceedings.

The main reasons why you should make a will include:

  1. To set out who you want to benefit from your estate;
  2. To avoid cost, delay and difficulty for your family in administering your estate;
  3. To address the need to provide adequately for all relevant family members, eg. especially in blended families; and
  4. To reduce the potential for dispute and costly lengthy litigation.

If you die intestate (the term for dying without a valid will) NSW law prescribes a standard formula to distribute your property and possessions. Usually, this means all your assets will pass to your spouse or children. But the situation becomes much more complex if you have a legal spouse and a de facto spouse (ie you’ve separated and have a new unmarried partner), if you have children from different relationships, or if you die with no spouse and no children.   The formula leaves your estate to your family members, but not to friends or charities.   The formula also often leads to feelings of disgruntlement which leads to disputes, litigation and ultimately small inheritances.

Over 40% of adults are at risk because they don’t have a valid will. Some people choose to make their own will. We think that’s a mistake. Writing your own will may seem straightforward however the law around wills is complex. Making your own will means you risk not drawing it up in a way that complies with the law or fails to express your intentions clearly.   It’s also easy to create a tax liability which your beneficiaries will have to pay. It’s also more likely to be contested. That’s why, when you make your will, it’s important you have it drafted by someone who understands the law and can advise you on the best way to make sure your assets end up where you want them to – and that means engaging a solicitor.

If you would like to discuss, develop or update your will please contact Lisa Roberts on (02) 4927 2900. Lisa is a Law Society of NSW Accredited Specialist in Wills & Estates law and has the depth of experience to handle all your needs from a standard will to a complex estate plan.

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