Research has shown, time and time again, that Kiwis are more likely to get their Wills set up after a life-changing event. From getting married to having your first child or buying a house, these are the occasions that often prompt us to think about the future.
But what does it actually take to get a Will and is it worth having?
At Perpetual Guardian we pride ourselves in the fact that we’re experts in the field and want to share some of that knowledge with you here.
We hope it will help you make an informed decision around protecting your future, now.
What is a Will?
A Will is a legal document that gives instruction for the distribution of your assets after you’re gone.
It allows you to specify who you want to benefit from your estate (your beneficiaries) and who will be responsible for the administration of your estate (your executor).
It also allows you to record specific wishes around your funeral or the guardianship of your children or dependants.
Who needs a Will?
Everyone over the age of 18 should make a Will. It’s the safest way to ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes.
A Will should be updated regularly to any major life changes, such as marriage or separation, having children and grandchildren or the purchase or sale of major assets, into account. If your Will isn’t kept up-to-date, it might not be valid.
A valid and current Will allows you to retain control over what happens to your assets on your death.
If you die without a Will, your property and belongings will be distributed according to the requirements of the Administration Act 1969. In other words, if you don’t have a Will, the law decides ‘who gets what’ out of your estate, regardless of the needs of those close to you, or what you may have wanted.
What should you consider before setting up a Will?
When it comes to writing your Will, it’s always a good idea to get professional advice from an expert.
Before you start the process of writing your Will, we suggest thinking about the following questions:
- Who do you want to be the executor of your Will? Want to find out more about what an executor does and why you would nominate Perpetual Guardian? See our section on Estate Administration.
- Do you have any specific funeral wishes? This can help you family with any decision making when it comes time to arrange your funeral.
- If you have minor children or dependants, who do you want to appoint as their guardian?
- Are there specific gifts you wish to make? Such as a gift of personal items such as jewellery, or a gift of money.
- Who would you like the rest of your estate to go to once your specific gifts have been made?
Why choose the Perpetual Guardian team?
When it comes to Wills, we know our stuff.
Before you make any decisions, our Client Managers can offer you a complimentary consultation – in person or over the phone – to talk through your situation, answer any questions you might have, and advise how a Will can help ensure your wishes are carried out.
If you then decide to have your Will done with us, your Client Manager will guide you through the entire process. As part of this, they’ll liaise with our experienced legal team who will draft a clear, concise and easy-to-understand Will for you.
We can also store your completed Will for you, so you know it is secure until needed.
What does it cost?
The cost for setting up your Will starts at $150, depending on complexity.
This covers your initial consultation with one of our expert Client Managers; the drafting of your Will by one of our resident lawyers; and any necessary edits after your initial draft is checked.
If you don’t nominate us as your executor, this is all you pay for your Will.
If, however, you’d like our expert team to execute your wishes after your passing, our standard fees apply. You can find these here.
Want to find out more about what an executor does and why you’d nominate Perpetual Guardian? Read more about it in the Frequently Asked Questions below.
Frequently asked questions
How do you pick your executor?
When making your Will you must nominate someone to act as executor and trustee. The executor has the legal responsibility to ensure that, on your death, the terms of your Will are carried out.
Choosing the right executor and trustee is important. The duties of an executor and trustee can be complicated, time-consuming and difficult. Duties performed may include Inland Revenue formalities, filing for probate with the High Court, dealing with claims against the estate, distribution of assets as instructed by the terms of the Will, holding assets in trust for a time (for example if any beneficiary is under age) or selling assets.
Although the appointment of the executor and trustee is your decision, it is essential that your executor and trustee can not only be trusted to carry out your wishes, but also have the required experience, time and skills necessary to do so.
Your executor isn’t only there to fulfil your wishes as stated in your Will, but also make things easier for your family during a difficult time.
Choosing an independent trustee like Perpetual Guardian offers many distinct advantages for the administration of your estate.
For more information of Why to choose Perpetual Guardian as your executor see our Estate Management section.
When do you need to update your Will?
It’s important to update your Will whenever there are major changes during your lifetime.
Marriage (or re-marriage), for example, usually revokes a Will. So if you’re planning to get married, you should make a new Will. Likewise, if you’ve separated or divorced, or there are other special circumstances such as adopted children or children with a disability, you may need to make special provisions for them in your Will.
Regardless of major changes in your life, we recommend you review your Will every three to five years.
What happens if you die without a Will?
If you haven't made a Will, you'll have no control over how your assets (including your inheritance) are distributed when you die. In addition, those left behind may be subjected to lengthy and costly delays while the Court appoints an administrator to distribute your assets in accordance with the Administration Act 1969.
Under the terms of this Act, the division of your estate will depend on whether what family members are living and means that your estate will not be distributed in accordance with your wishes.
Is there anything else you need to consider?
Although you are free to distribute your estate as you wish, in New Zealand there are three key pieces of legislation which may impose certain obligations on you when you make your Will:
- The Property (Relationships) Act 1976 – A spouse or partner has certain rights in relation to your estate. They have the option to choose if they accept what they have been left under a Will, or choose for a division of relationship property. We recommend that you seek independent legal advice when considering any relationship property matters.
- The Family Protection Act 1955 – Certain family members may have the right to claim against your estate if they do not feel they have been adequately provided for under your Will.
- Law Reform (Testamentary Promises) Act 1949 – A person may claim against your estate if you breached a promise to leave them something in your Will in return for work or services that they provided you with.
It is important to be aware of what is covered by these pieces of legislation and how they may affect the provisions you have made in your Will.
What else can you do to protect yourself and your loved ones?
An up-to-date Will is the cornerstone of a good estate plan. However, when completing a Will, Enduring Powers of Attorney should also be put in place.
They can help provide your personal care and welfare if you become incapacitated, and the ongoing management of your assets and financial arrangements if you choose.
And then there are Trusts. They too can be a great structure to protect your family and all you’ve worked for throughout your life and be tailored to your unique circumstances and needs.
To find out more, ask one of our experts for more information.