“The range of “risks” to which a will maker, his or her property, interested parties or members of the legal profession may be subject is probably infinite in its dimensions. Risk cannot be eliminated from life, or, it seems, from death.“
The Hon Justice Lindsay, Equity Division, Supreme Court of New South Wales, Seminar presentation to the Succession Law Committee of the Law Society of New South Wales, 2013.
We make a will so as to provide for our loved ones; to be able to choose who will inherit our property. But writing down our intentions so that they are clear and unambiguous for others when we are no longer around, is not easy. For example take the words “issue” and “children”. The word “issue” is a legal term meaning all of a person’s descendants; not just their children.
A grant of probate is the document issued by the Court of Probate after the examination process. A type of grant of representation, it is an order of the Court certifying that the executor (or personal representative) named in the document is lawfully authorised to administer the estate of the deceased person. More →
Left out of a will or seeking more – who can apply for provision?
Family provision laws were introduced to remedy situations where willmakers failed to leave adequate provision for the proper maintenance, support and advancement in life for close family, usually spouses, partners and children.
The legislation gives the court1 discretionary power to order provision from a deceased person’s estate, where found to be inadequate, to “eligible” applicants, under certain circumstances. It is not automatic.
What does the ‘residue’ or ‘to give the residue of my estate’ mean?
The residue of a deceased person’s estate is what is left over after the payment of all expenses in connection with the estate.
Expenses include payment of the funeral, costs incurred in the administration of the estate, payment of the deceased’s debts, the discharge of any liabilities of the deceased, and the distribution of any specific gifts made under their will.
The residue or residuary estate is property of the deceased not disposed of by the terms of their will.
Storing a will for safekeeping
Wills are important private and confidential documents which take legal effect on the death of its maker. An original will should be stored in a safe and secure place after being signed and witnessed. Ideally the place should be fireproof, and protected from tampering or destruction.
Willmakers should consider their personal circumstances, family and other relationships when considering storage options. In some situations storing a will at home is not advisable if it is likely persons adverse to what it contains can access it.
And make sure you inform your nominated executors or legal personal representatives of your original documents.
Per stirpes and per capita distribution of a deceased estate
Per stirpes and per capitaare Latin terms referring to the ways in which a person’s estate can be distributed among their descendants, their children, grandchildren and so on. A person’s descendants are often referred to as “issue” in succession and inheritance law. As the term ‘issue’ refers to more family than just ‘children’ this can lead to confusion when interpreting what a will-maker intended. For more see this article on using the words “issue” and “children” in wills.
Per stirpes and per capita are different ways of distributing property among a group or class of people, either under a will or when there isn’t one. They address the situation where one or more family descendants of a person have predeceased them. Per stirpes means ‘by the stocks, roots or branch” and per capita means ‘by the head’, by each individual person in equal shares. More →
Many people own property with another person in a co-ownership arrangement. Spouses or partners typically own their residence together in joint names, family members; or friends may own a property together for investment.
An important issue to consider upfront when buying property are the consequences of when a co-owner dies. How the property is owned between people, that is, its tenancy, can give very different outcomes on death. Ideally these should be considered at the time of purchase.
Questions to ask include who can take a co-owner’s interest when they die? Would this be what they want to have happen? If not, can they state their intention in their will? Or is the property owned in a way that on death the interest automatically passes to the survivor/s outside of a will, as in joint tenancy? This article looks at tenancy issues. More →