Increasing your willpower

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June 13, 2017
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Will

When eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes II died in 1976, more than 40 alleged wills were produced by grieving family members and friends.  Four hundred prospective heirs emerged from the woodwork, all trying to claim part of his $2 billion estate.   As all the supposed wills were found to be fakes, the Court ignored them all and divided Hughes’ estate among 22 cousins instead.

No one in New Zealand has yet to reach such lofty heights, but many people are blissfully unaware that if they die without a will, their estate may not go to those they would have intended it to.  Without a will, the legal costs of administering the estate are also likely to increase dramatically – not usually the best use of their lifetime savings.

Others are unaware that if their will does not meet any “moral duty” that they owe to family members, it can be overturned by the Court.

We often get requests for a “simple” will.  Is such a will possible?  What can you do to make your will stick?

In order to make a will that has less chance of being overturned, you first of all need to be of sound mind.  (Most of our clients pass that test easily!)  You also need to carefully consider to whom you may owe a moral duty – be it your spouse/partner, children, or in some cases, grandchildren.  This can be tricky, particularly when there are children competing with a second or third spouse. Even if your children are well off financially, you may have a moral duty to consider them in your will.

It’s important we have a complete understanding of your situation so we can prepare a will that has the best chance of supporting your wishes. Let us know of any promises that you have made to gift property or assets to friends or family.  If those gifts are not included in the will, then this can be challenged. We also need to know the extent of your estate, as your moral duty can vary depending on the amount involved. 

Of course, asset distribution is only one aspect to consider when preparing your will. For some, there will be much more crucial decisions. Guardianship of young children, for example, is not something that should be left for others to decide in the event of a tragedy. We’re happy to talk you through these difficult scenarios to make sure you have as much security as possible around knowing your wishes would be carried out. 

Beware of saving a few dollars by preparing a home made will.  In our experience this often proves to be a false economy. We will help you towards making sure your will meets the test of what a “wise and just willmaker” would do. While no will is ever completely watertight, careful thought and solid advice when a will is made should give the best chance of avoiding family disputes after a death.  

Please contact us as soon as possible if your will needs updating – or putting in place.

Michael Hockly
Michael Hockly
Partner

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