Sep 30

Why National Wills month is important for you

Lauren Hean

Appleton Managing Director

From my nearly 20 years of experience in fiduciary services, I have seen far too often the unhappiness that a badly-drafted Will causes. With this in mind, it is important to avoid some of the basic pitfalls of Will drafting that will ultimately lead to a problematic, delayed or even contested estate.

The first, most obvious and most important issue is to have your Will drafted by a professional Appleton. Our legally-qualified Will drafters have many years of experience and provide this service to you at no cost. Estate planning is becoming ever-more complex, particularly with local and international assets, blended families and convoluted tax regimes. So, rather consult with a professional, rather than attempt to write up an off-the-shelf document, that may just end up there.

The second issue is to be clear as possible about your assets, your wishes and your language. Leaving assets unaccounted for means that your heirs and executors may struggle to achieve full value for your estate thereby short-changing them of the benefit of your bequest. Relatedly, be as accurate as you can be about the value of your assets. It doesn’t help to overestimate or underestimate the value of your assets. If your estate is dutiable, it will be liable for tax irrespective of how you value your assets.

Your Will should be as specific as possible about your wishes and bequests. Vague wishes lead to vague, unsatisfactory and disputed outcomes. Far too often we hear heirs saying, “Oh but this was not what he or she would have wanted!”. Such sentiments are probably well-intentioned but hold little or no water in the law. The deceased’s last Will and testament (no matter how old) is a legally binding document the contents of which must be adhered to by the executors such as Appleton. While disputes can be lodged in the High Court, this is an extremely costly and time-consuming process, the costs of which can actually denude the value of one’s claim. Moreover, such legal challenges often come at the expense of family unity and leave relationships in tatters. This leads to a third related point which is clarity of language. The vagueness of language can lead to wishes not being interpreted properly and distributions being ‘misallocated’. Vagueness can lead to legal challenges, which can be costly and stoke family disputes, particularly during times of trauma. This is another reason to utilise the services of Appleton’s professional Will drafters. Our decades of experience can assist in avoiding the unnecessary pitfalls of vague wishes and language.

We have focussed on this issue before but raised it again as it continues to be a point of misunderstanding and contention. Please be clear about your marriage regime and how this impacts your estate. Some of the most experienced financial advisors still don’t always understand just how important this is to estate planning, asset distribution, taxation and estate administration. Again, if in any doubt, please consult with your Warwick professional.