Why make a Will?
You often hear people say "you must make a Will" - it's one of those things that "everybody knows".
But why make a Will? There are three basic reasons:
Reason 1: What happens if you don't
What happens is that your possessions get distributed according to a formula in an Act of Parliament.
That formula might suit you or it might not.
For instance, your spouse (or "domestic partner") might be entitled to a certain amount, and your children to the rest. That could cause big problems for your spouse, because such formulae are typically so far out of touch with economic reality that your spouse could be forced to sell the family home to pay the kids their share. In most cases the kids wouldn't dream of it - but what if?
(Example: in Victoria the spouse is entitled to $100,000 plus one third of the balance of the estate. So if the family home is worth $800,000 the spouse gets about $330,000. Paying a mortgage or meeting kids' demands for their entitlement could see the spouse homeless).
Making a Will (almost) fixes that problem - it means YOU say what happens to your possessions - not some outdated piece of legislation. (We say "almost" because in some States if you leave out the kids they can challenge the Will - for a little comment on that see Challenges to wills).
Reason 2: Who is in control?
The second reason for making a Will is that YOU get to appoint the person who will look after things for you.
With no Will, legislation says who will do so. It's usually sensible enough - first the spouse, and if there is no surviving spouse then the kids, etc..- but after that you need to start wondering just who will end up in control of your estate.
By making a Will, YOU appoint one or more executors, and maybe some substitutes if the first one(s) can't do the job because they died before you.
Reason 3: It enables Probate
Probate is only possible when there is a Will. With no Will, someone has to prove that they are entitled to administer the estate - that's usually no big problem, but it's better to be sure. (When there is no Will there can be no "Probate" - someone has to apply for a similar authorisation called "Letters of Administration" instead).