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Everyone over the age of 18 that has any assets should have a will. If you have any form of estate to pass on, then it should be you that decides exactly where and to whom these assets pass, not the government. If you die without a will, or “intestate”, the implications may come as a surprise to many people.
Common misconception number 1:
- If I have no children but I do have a spouse, everything I own will pass to my spouse.
Not necessarily. In the states of WA and NT for example, although the majority of your assets will pass to your spouse, a certain proportion will go to your parents or failing this, your siblings.
Common misconception number 2:
- If I have a spouse and children, everything I own will pass to my spouse.
Incorrect. In all states across Australia, it is possible that at least some proportion of your assets will pass to your children as well as your spouse.
So what if you have no spouse and no children?
Generally speaking the hierarchy is as follows:
- Nieces & Nephews
- Aunts and Uncles
- Cousins (this certainly came as a shock to a member of mine that had no idea cousins they had never met may be entitled to their estate).
- If none of the above, your estate passes to the Crown.
However, please note: Every state is different and this is why a will is particularly important. For example:
- In Victoria aunts, uncles and cousins are not considered.
- In SA, there is no hierarchy and everything is divided equally between parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
- In TAS they will even consider “degrees of kinship”, i.e. friends, before deciding that everything goes to the crown.
To rule out any unknown possibilities and to enable the courts to efficiently and correctly allocate your assets, you should pay the few hundred dollar cost and set up a will that will ensure your wishes are followed after your passing.