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More people need to update their wills as circumstances have changed

By Keeli Cambourne
May 04 2023
2 minute read
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SMSF trustees are being encouraged to update and ensure their wills are valid to avoid costly court actions or assets being unintentionally sold.

Susan Bonnici, estate planning solicitor at Equity Trustees, said dying without a valid will can mean hard-earned assets end up with the wrong people, an estate might be subject to an expensive court dispute, or valuable or sentimental possessions might be unintentionally sold. 

“It’s never too early or too early to organise your will and think about how the ones you love would get by without you and what provisions you’d like to make for them from your estate,” she said.


“A will is the only way you can ensure the assets you’ve worked hard to accumulate over your lifetime, or any other precious items that may have emotional meanings for your family, are distributed the way you’d want them to be, after your death.   

“Many people have valuable or sentimental items they want to leave to close family members or friends. These intentions must be recorded in a will.”

For many people, the main motivation in making a will is to make sure their family members will be taken care of after they have died. This may mean ensuring a mortgage is paid and property transferred so that a spouse, partner or other loved one has secure accommodation.  

Ms Bonnici advises that some people may wish to include trust structures in their wills so that the inheritances of vulnerable or disabled beneficiaries are protected and they are properly looked after for the rest of their lives.  

“While your money doesn’t automatically end up with the government if you die without a will, it may well end up there if you’re not careful,” said Ms Bonnici. 

When a person dies without a will, an administrator is appointed by the courts to deal with their assets, with state and territory legislation governing how the administrator will distribute those assets.  

If there is no spouse or children, then their parents will receive the estate. If there are no surviving parents, then it will go to their siblings, then grandparents, then aunts and uncles and then cousins. After all avenues are exhausted, and usually after a very long and expensive process, then what’s left of the estate will eventually end up with the government.  

She also warned that if someone dies before a divorce is finalised, any provisions made for their ex-partner in their will continue to apply.

“The same goes for separation, and if neither side has a will in place, it could be argued they are still considered ‘partners’ for the purpose of the estate distribution,” she said.

“Signing a new will, which clearly documents that the relationship has ended and who your new beneficiaries should be, is the clearest way to prevent any unintended benefits to an ex-partner should you pass away.  

“It’s vital to get individual advice about what estate planning would work best for your circumstances and put a will in place to make sure the loves of your life are protected and your wishes are respected. Our experienced and approachable estate planning lawyers at Equity Trustees can help with that process,” said Ms Bonnici. 

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