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Make a Will?  I am only 18!

 

There is little worse than losing a young person but if it happens, the effects can be complicated at best and traumatic at worst. 

 

A child under 18 can inherit an estate that can be held on trust for them until they turn 18.  A young person over 18 can also easily inherit estates that can be substantial.  What if that young person then dies leaving no Will?  There are many many scenarios that end up before the courts of a young person inheriting an estate either after finding themselves in complicated circumstances, or themselves passing before a Will was made. 

 

Case Study 1 – Real Experience

 

As a consequence of a serious car accident, the mother ultimately survived and the daughter did not.  The daughter was 24.  The daughter now owned a property and various other assets including a car and money in the bank.  She died without a Will.  Under the intestacy laws the first people to inherit her estate were her parents.  Although it was believed the father was still alive, the mother had not heard from the father since the birth and did not know of his whereabouts.  The estate could not be released to the mother unless the father gave written permission.  The daughter would not have wanted the father to inherit any of her estate but would have wanted the mother to inherit it all.  A long and complex scenario, which took two years (and can take more) followed in order to have the daughter’s estate released by permission of the courts after substantial costs were incurred. 

Case Study 2 – Real Experience

 

Similarly, a young man of 25 was killed in a car crash.  He was a joint property owner, mortgaged with a friend but owned as tenants in common, had investments, life insurance and a pension.  Although he had shown an intention to make a Will, a Will was never found.  The significance of the ownership of the property was that if it had been as joint tenants, it would have passed automatically to the other owner.  As it was, it was owned as tenants in common which means you are free to leave your half of a property to whoever you wish, which requires a Will.  Without a Will the first people the estate would pass to is the parents which in this case included half the house and which the mother wanted the sale proceeds of.  The whereabouts of the father was not known and it was uncertain whether he was alive, and the mother was estranged from the son.  The son had verbally expressed his wish that his estate should go to his siblings and their families, particularly as he was estranged from the mother at his own choice.  However, without a will, the rules of intestacy meant the mother was to inherit the whole estate.  It was a complex and expensive business to sort.  The end result was his estate did not go the people he had said he wished to benefit.  A verbal intention could not be supported by the courts in this case and the mother was the sole beneficiary.

Case Study 3 - Real Experience

An 18 year boy and 16 year old girl were named as beneficiaries in their parents Will.  The family were involved in a car crash one night which killed the parents.  The parents owned substantial assets with a family home and a variety of other assets.  Their Will contained a survivorship clause that their beneficiaries must survive them by 28 days.  No substitute beneficiaries were named if they did not.  The  children survived their parents by 28 days so the 18 year old inherited his half and the 16 year old being a minor, had the estate held on trust until she reached 18.  The 18 year old later died without a Will.  His half of the estate now went to the estranged grandparents and not to the 16 year old girl.  A well worded Will from the deceased parents could have prevented this as could a Will for the 18 year old given that it was known there was a possibility he could inherit at any time.

Your Will matters.  It can be amended or rewritten at any time.

Be in control.  Be Certain

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