Wills and other end of life planning are not fun topics to discuss. They often stir up strong emotions, whether thinking about your own death or what may happen to loved ones after you’re gone. You may even feel that drafting a Will is tempting fate—best to leave well enough alone, right?
As much as we all hope that life will continue without a hitch, the unexpected does happen. Accidents and terminal illness unfortunately affect people every day. A Will is one way to help plan for any unwelcome surprises life may throw your way. However, even those lucky enough to reach old age may still have good reason to draft a Will.
One big benefit of writing a Will is that you can have some control over your estate after you’ve passed away. Dying intestate—that is, without a Will—moves the process of deciding who gets what to the courts (this is known as probate). Legal rules will be followed to divide your estate, but these may not match your personal wishes or intentions.
Anyone 18 or older can have a Will in New Zealand, but there are times when it may make more sense for you to write one. Here are six times when having a Will may help you and your loved ones.
You want to pick who controls your estate
Drafting a Will not only allows you to decide who gets what, it also lets you pick who helps fulfill your final wishes. An executor is the person you select to make sure the instructions in your Will are carried out. You can pick someone you trust to do the job, who may have a better understanding of your wishes than a judge.
You’re a parent with children under 18
Having children is often what prompts people to first write their Will. Parents commonly use this document to name a legal guardian for their minor children (those under 18 years old). This gives them some say in who will care for their kids, if both parents were to pass away unexpectedly.
However, a Will can do more for your children than simply name a caregiver. You might also want to limit how and when they inherit their share of your estate. If you were to pass away without a Will, your children would likely receive their inheritance once they turn 18. You might instead prefer them to inherit when they are older or attach some conditions, such as first completing university.
You’re someone’s primary caregiver
Children may not be the only people who depend on you for physical or financial care. A Will might also be useful if you look after other family members. This may include elderly parents, a disabled spouse or an adult child who will never be able to care for themselves. A Will could help spell out not only who becomes their legal guardian, but could also establish a trust to help pay for ongoing care.
You’re part of a blended family
New Zealand families have changed a lot in the past several decades. De facto relationships, divorce and remarriage are more common now than they once were. As a result, you may have people beyond your immediate family you’d like to recognise after your death.
Dying without a Will likely means that your estate will pass to your next of kin—typically a spouse, de facto partner or your children. This might prevent important family members or close friends from inheriting all or part of your assets. A Will is often the simplest way to ensure that the people who matter most to you receive a share of your estate.
You have valuable items that should go to a specific person
A Will can be used to make special gifts to anyone you choose. These gifts don’t have to be valuable in a traditional sense—they could be family heirlooms that hold sentimental value. This might include things like antiques, furniture, jewelry or clothing. You may prefer that these objects stay in your family, rather than go to your spouse or de facto partner.
You’d like to donate to charity
Honouring a cause that’s close to your heart may be an important part of your final wishes. Writing a Will gives you the opportunity to leave some or all of your estate to a charity, non-profit or other organisation you’ve chosen.
Start planning your future
Are you ready to write a Will? Putting your final wishes onto paper could be an important step towards helping your loved ones carry on after you’re gone.
Get a free legal Will Kit when you take out a Funeral Insurance policy with Momentum Life! This step-by-step guide will help you write a legally binding Will to help ensure that your final wishes are followed.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is of general nature, and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs or seek professional advice, where necessary.