New research reveals that nearly half (48 per cent) of Aussie’s with a mortgage don’t have a will, which puts the people you wish to benefit from your assets at risk of not receiving what is intended for them.

Under-40s who have a will are most likely to do so when purchasing property, whereas the majority of those over-50 have a will out of interest of their marriage or kids.

The findings come from an independent survey of a nationally representative panel of 1002 Australian mortgagors commissioned by financial comparison service

Why you need a will

Having a will minimises potential conflict or confusion between the will-holder’s family, particularly in instances when the deceased is unmarried or they’re in non-traditional families. If you are in a de facto relationship, having a will assists your partner in getting their intended share of your assets. It also benefits those who have non-traditional marriages or a blended family where stepchildren are involved.

“While the life stage at which we organise a will is an individual decision, the data shows that a property purchase or extension of their family are the major reasons mortgage holders have organised this important legal document,”

says spokesperson Abigail Koch.

Abigail added, “Those who don’t have a will could leave their assets open to contestation by family members seeking a greater share of their estate. Each state in Australia exercises different laws around wills, and how assets are distributed when there is no will in place. For those who unexpectedly pass, there may be a risk that their assets will not handle in the way they intended. For this reason, having a will provides peace of mind for the asset-holder and the intended beneficiaries.”

4 facts on what could happen if someone passes away without a will:

  1. Your family will get your assets – but they have no control over the distribution amounts. Forty-six (46) per cent of survey respondents weren’t aware that if you die without a will – called dying ‘intestate’ – then the direct family is automatically entitled to their assets. Specifically, the spouse will inherit the entirety of the assets. However, if there is no spouse, assets will be inherited by the next available relative and distributed equally, which is determined by the state order. This next available relative order is children, parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, then cousins. For example, if the deceased leaves no spouse, the children will share the assets equally, but if there are no children in this situation, the living parents get equal shares. It is only in the case that there are no eligible relatives, that your assets will be passed onto the State. From there, an application must be made by anyone wanting to make a claim. In some cases, the court has the discretion to consider an ‘informal will’ – other documents that set out the testamentary intentions of the deceased. This may include letters, documents created and saved on a smartphone or computer hard drive, video recording or an unsent text message.
  2. Your beneficiaries may be required to sell your assets. One in five survey respondents (22 per cent) assumed that when they die, their partner or family members won’t be forced to sell assets for other parties to claim a share. Beneficiaries may make a claim for a larger share of the assets requiring assets to be sold to meet the share. Assets may also be used to pay out liabilities in instances where bankruptcy is declared when there are more liabilities than assets.
  3. Someone I may not have chosen could be appointed the guardian of my children when I die. The survey reveals just 27 per cent of respondents know this to be a fact. If an individual dies and they have children under the age of 18, guardianship is automatically given to the surviving parent. However, if the other parent has died or they refuse to take on the role, the court may appoint a guardian to act jointly with the surviving parent – who may or may not be an individual you would like to be the guardian of your children. If, prior to passing, you sent a letter or text message mentioning the intentions of guardianship in the event of your death, the court may also consider these informal documents.
  4. Your family or partner could be taken to court if others believe they should be beneficiaries of your assets. Forty (40) per cent of Aussies think that people who believe they should be beneficiaries of their assets could successfully take their partner or family to court. If an individual dies without a will, similar to point one, each category of succession must be exhausted before moving to the next until an eligible relative is found to inherit the estate, then the process stops. However, individuals may dispute this. It’s important to be aware that if a party chooses to take a family to court, it is often a highly time-consuming and expensive process that is not guaranteed to be successful.