Taking Action during Lockdown – Check your Will off the ‘to do’ List

In times of uncertainty, a well-known habit to promote wellbeing is to focus our attention on the things we can control, rather than what is happening around us that we cannot. To quote from Steve Maraboli (behavioural scientist and public speaker) – "Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don't."

For the people of Victoria, and metro Melbourne in particular, in the midst of the current COVID lockdowns, this is particularly important. Many are frustrated with the lack of control over their circumstances, and we are particularly mindful of the fragility of life. Anecdotal evidence indicates that 60% of Australians do not have a valid Will. If you are one of the 60%, the law determines how your Estate is dealt with. What does that mean exactly? Read more here in our blog “No Will, No Say”

Having a Will in place is important to ensure that your wishes are carried out after your death, and that your chosen person or people are in control of the process. Too often, as lawyers, we see the fallout of those who have delayed for too long, and whose loved ones lament "this is not what s/he would have wanted". This can be frustrating for those left behind, grieving the loss of a loved one while watching "the wrong person" take charge, or "the wrong people" receiving the benefit.

It is important to remember that your superannuation may include a significant death benefit payment, and this does not necessarily form part of your Estate. Use this time to check with your superannuation fund to see whether you have nominated a beneficiary of your death benefits and, if so, make sure that the person or people you have nominated are eligible to receive the death benefits. In general, the eligible people are a spouse or domestic partner, children (including adult children) and financial dependants. Grandchildren and charities are not usually eligible, and a nomination in their favour will fail. For those people who intend for their superannuation death benefits to pass to a person or entity who may not qualify as eligible to receive superannuation, it is even more important to make sure there is a current, valid Will.

Similarly, assets held jointly with another person, assets in a trust or private company do not necessarily form part of your Estate to be dealt with by your Will, and may need to be reviewed separately. There are documents that may supplement your Will to ensure that the assets that do not form part of your Estate have been dealt with.

We encourage you to take positive action during this time – look after your personal health, and get a Will 'Health Check' from us to make sure that your wishes are clear and enforceable after you're gone. At the same time, we will check if your "during life" decisions and wishes are appropriately recorded in the event you are unable to make these yourself.

Not sure where to start? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions page if you have further questions, or contact Burke Lawyers to speak to one of our dedicated team. Burke Lawyers offer videoconferencing to ensure restrictions are not a barrier to progress. We also have an online Estate Planning assistant that begins to collate information needed for your Will conversation, saving you time and allowing you to have all details ready prior to an appointment with one of our team members. You can start your will process online using this link

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