It is alarming how many people, especially those with underage children, who do not have a will.  There are five basic reasons why you should have a will if you have children under the age of 18:

  1. You can appoint a guardian.  The old wives’ tale that your children will go to their godparents in the event that you and your spouse passing away is an urban myth.  Section 61(c) of the Succession Act allows a parent or guardian of a child to appoint by will a person to be the guardian of the child to take effect on the death of a parent or guardian.
  2. You can control how your children and when your children will receive their inheritance.  If you do not have a will then your estate is divided up in accordance with the terms of the Succession Act which means that your spouse will receive the first $150,000 from your estate and if there is one child half of the estate, if there is more than one child a third of the estate and the balance will then be divided among your surviving children.  If you want your estate to pass to your spouse or not to be distributed to your children until they attain a certain again then you need a will.
  3. You can control what happens to you.  You can by your will leave instructions as to whether or not you wish to be an organ donor, whether you wish to be buried or cremated and the manner in which your ashes might be scattered or otherwise retained or the place that you might be buried for example.  While for some people these considerations are unimportant, for others of the utmost importance and significant disputes among family members can and do arise particularly in relation to the division of ashes and/or whether or not a deceased person will be buried or cremated.
  4. You can direct payment of your superannuation death benefits These benefits include life insurance held within your superannuation to your estate and then into a tax effective and asset protected structure for your children.
  5. You can leave wishes about the future care of your children Things like where your children are to go to school, what contact they might have with different members of your family and where and how they are to be raised.

It is of critical importance for parents, particularly of those with children who are under the age 18 years, to make sure that they provide instructions for the way in which their children will be looked after in the event that the unthinkable happens.