parent opinion

"The scary fact that made me realise I need to write a will. If not for me, for my kids."

“Nothing is certain but death and taxes,” so they say.

Neither of these events are ones I particularly look forward to (unless I am getting money back at tax time of course). Nor are they topics I really discuss except to my accountant once a year, or from time to time when a mortifying, gruesome death comes to my attention on the news and I announce that that would be the worst possible way to die.

Although I get my tax done efficiently and honestly (I hope you’re listening ATO), my effectiveness on the ‘death’ front isn’t as commendable. While sometimes intriguing and detailed, my death conversations aren’t really very pragmatic. On the plus side, I have decided the ways in which I would definitely not like to die (like I have a choice), but on the negative side, I have not got a plan about what would happen if I did. And it seems I am not the only one.

how to write a will
... Image: Supplied.

According to numerous studies conducted In Australia on the prevalence of wills, including one by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, it is  estimated "nearly half" of people in Australia die without a will. The most likely group to write wills are “older people with significant assets” (old, rich people) which I am most definitely not. For me, this is why I think I have never gotten around to writing one.

Up until a few years ago I wasn’t a home owner, and my sole major asset was a Daewoo Matiz (like Kel’s car from Kath and Kim). In other words, I had no need to write a will.

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But now, a few years later I do own a house, my car has been upgraded, I have collected more expensive possessions but most importantly I have become a mother. However, I still do not have a will. Much to my embarrassment and for the final nail in the coffin (pun intended), neither does my husband.

Again, I do not find myself alone in this situation. According to the Real Insurance Family Protection survey published in April 2017, 56 per cent of parents haven't created a will. That’s right, over half of the parents out there have no ‘official’ plan about what would happen if they were to die. And of those that have completed a will, two in five of them have failed to appoint guardians for their children in the event of the parents' deaths.

As much as we don’t want to have to face the fact that we will one day die, the reality is we will (sorry to bring the doom and gloom) and life can bring us many surprises (which aren’t all good). So the bleak reality is, especially as parents, we need them! Here are some will facts:

According to Caitlin Fitzsimmons (The Editor of Money in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age) if both parents of a child/children under 18 years of age were to die and without a will with a nominated testamentary guardian, the guardianship of your children becomes a matter for the family court. Basically, if you don’t have a ‘rubber stamped’ legal will with this ‘testamentary guardian’ (the person who decides who your children should live with), it could mean they end up with someone you wouldn’t have actually chosen or wanted to raise your kids. The decision would be out of your control. And who wants a Count Olaf raising your kids?

how to write a will
A series of unfortunate events... a cautionary tale. Image: Nickelodeon Movies.
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Another eye opening fact according to the NSW Government's Trustee & Guardians website  is if you do not have a will and are separated but not divorced, your ex-partner is still legally entitled to your assets whether you have children or not. The amount that they are entitled to would vary depending on the value of your estate and the state you live but it benefits the spouse (or ex-spouse) percentage wise.

So if you want to leave all (or specified amount) of your money and assets to your children this needs to be specified in a legal will. If you are in my poorly organised shoes and haven’t written a will, the good news is that you may not even need a solicitor or to spend lots of money to write one.

According to Legal Aid Victoria, to make a valid will you must do the following things:

1. Make a will in writing.

2. Sign the will in front of two or more witnesses.

They also suggest that it is a good idea to date it at the time of signing and templates you can use available on their website. Alternatively, you can purchase a Will Kit for less than $40 from State Trustees. This also includes simple explanations, checklists and step by step instructions.

I’ll take two please.

Have you written a will? Tell us in the comments section below. 

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