In my many years of preparing wills, the most common reason for making a will (or updating a will) is because there is an overseas flight imminent.
Despite air travel being one of the safest forms of transport, people see that hopping on a plane as a real motivator to get their will in order.
Any reason that makes a person pay attention to their will is helpful.
If a couple should both die at the same time, whether it be in a plane accident, a car accident or house fire the distribution of the estate where there is no will can be quite surprising.
For most couples, their main asset will be a jointly owned house. Joint ownership means that, upon the death of one owner, the other co-owner automatically becomes the sole owner of the property. If both owners die at the same time then you need to look at the pathologist’s report to decide who lived the longest, even if only for a short period of time. Then the house goes to the next of kin of the person who died last.
Assuming that there are no children, then the beneficiaries are likely to be the parents of the person who died last. The parents of the person who died first would receive no share of the house.
If the pathologist cannot decide who died first, then the oldest person is legally presumed to have died first, and the relatives of the youngest person would inherit the house.
So if a couple dies without a will, it really is a lottery as to where the assets will flow.
The easy solution is to make a will which provides that upon the death of both persons, the estate is divided equally between the two surviving families, and that way it does not matter who dies first as you end up with the same outcome. Of course, you may not want your relatives to inherit the house at all. You may have other choices that are more important to you.
Despite having planned the overseas holiday many months in advance, I am still surprised by the number of people who contact me only a week prior to their trip asking for a will to be made or updated. You should give yourself plenty of time to complete the task and do not wait to contact the lawyer on the same day that you are packing your suitcase!
To make or update your will contact our Will & Powers of Attorney team on 03 5445 1000.