The Importance of Wills

There have been a number of stories bought to light recently which have highlighted the importance of having a will, as well as the need to ensure that it provides adequate protection for your family.
New Zealanders don’t like talking or thinking about death and therefore we don’t like taking the step and getting a will drawn up. However, the possible repercussions can be much more damaging than people realise.

3rd Degree
There were two situations highlighted recently on current affairs show 3rd Degree that showed the dangers of not having a proper will.
The first concerned a father who died intestate (without a will) and owned a lot of valuable land. There was no direction for his family as to what to do with the land and how to divide it. The result was his children have been fighting for a decade, incurring thousands of dollars in legal fees, and they are still unable to reach a decision that they all agree on as to what to do with their father’s property.
The second situation concerned a mother who did have a valid will but following her death one of her sons felt that another brother was to receive more than his fair share. This again lead to long legal battles and costs, and has torn the family apart with the brothers wanting nothing to do with each other.

Recent High Court decision
Under New Zealand law There are obligations to ensure that your will provides adequate provision for your immediate family members. When these obligations are ignored it can lead to a number of challenges against the will.
A recent High Court decision concerned a family where the children were estranged from the parents. When the father died his will directed for all his property to go to his wife. Now this is a normal arrangement and not usually an issue, with the surviving spouse’s will then providing for family.
However the children bought a claim against their father’s estate on the grounds that they were not going to receive anything from their mothers’ estate and their father should have made provision for them.
The decision set out that the father was aware that his children would not receive anything from their mother and it was argued that he had failed in his moral duty to provide for them.
The decision is significant because it stretches beyond the normal situation and allowed the children to attack the estate when there was still a living spouse.
The decision was one that not only highlighted the importance of the moral obligations on people to provide for family members on their passing. But also that, in certain situations, a living spouse could have their share of their spouse’s estate attacked by their children.

Conclusion
The most important point from these stories is firstly, to bite the bullet and get a will drawn up. It will ensure that your family has guidance as to what to do with your property when you go, and can enable you to clearly set out your wishes.
Secondly, when you are thinking about your will, it is best to come and talk to us to ensure that it provides adequate protection against any possible claims, and that your family members are adequately provided for.
We offer free wills so there is no excuse!

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