As a trusted law firm serving the Geelong community, we understand that thinking about one’s mortality can be uncomfortable, and this can include thinking about your Will. You might also think you do not have sufficient assets to justify making a Will. Or you might be planning to draft a Will, but it has been pushed to the backburner while you’re in the thick of everyday life.  

Failing to plan for the inevitable, however, can lead to significant financial and emotional burdens for your loved ones. In Victoria, dying ‘intestate’ (without a Will) can result in a range of often unforeseen negative consequences.  

What is a Will? 

A Will is the document – signed in front of two independent witnesses – in which you declare how your assets are to be distributed in the event of your death. Your will can also include your wishes about matters such as legal guardians for your children and/or your burial wishes. Verbal expressions regarding your wishes, or even a note outlining your wishes, are not enough, as the lack of a legal Will document risks your intentions being rendered invalid by the court. 

The Law on Dying Without a Will 

If an individual dies intestate, their assets will be distributed according to a legal formula laid out by the Victorian Government. These ‘laws of intestacy’ are covered in the Administration and Probate Act 1958 (Vic) and are based on the deceased’s relationships at the time of their passing. 

Possible Costs of Dying Intestate 

  • Tax liabilities

Without a Will, your estate may be subject to higher tax liabilities. Proper estate planning can help to minimise the tax burden on your beneficiaries, ensuring that more of your assets go to your loved ones, rather than to the tax office. 

  • Fees for experts

Depending on your personal situation, the distribution of your assets without a Will can become complicated, often requiring the expertise of accountants, lawyers, and other professionals. These additional consultations and services can quickly add up, eating into the value of your estate. 

  • Additional court costs

Without the clear instructions that a Will provides, the courts may need to intervene to settle disputes among family members or to determine how assets should be distributed. This can result in prolonged court proceedings and increased legal fees, further reducing the overall value of your estate. 

  • Litigation costs

Disputes over inheritance are not uncommon, especially when there is no Will to guide the distribution of assets. Family members may contest the default distribution rules (as laid out in the Admin and Probate Act), leading to costly litigation that can deplete the estate and strain relationships among surviving relatives. 

  • Increased distress for your loved ones

Perhaps the most significant cost of dying without a Will is the emotional toll in can take on your family. Without clear and legally documented instructions from you, your loved ones may face uncertainty and conflict during an already challenging time. 

Our Experienced Geelong Wills & Estate Planning Lawyers are here to help 

By having a Will in place, you can provide peace of mind to your family and ensure that your wishes are carried out as intended. At Whyte Just & Moore Lawyers, we specialise in Wills and Estate Planning, helping individuals and families in Geelong and beyond secure their legacies and protect their loved ones. Our trusted team can guide you through the process of drafting or updating your Will, ensuring that your wishes are clearly delineated and legally enforceable. 

Don’t leave your estate to chance. Take control of your legacy today by contacting the WJM team for a Will or Estate Planning consultation.