In the words of Haruki Murakami, “Death is not the opposite of life, but part of it.” For some, death may be the result of an illness, which allows them to prepare, but for many death is unexpected. A loved one leaves the home and never makes it back. Grief is crippling for those left behind and where the deceased has not made a will, the fallout is much worse and costly.
If you die without a will, known as dying intestate, all of your property including KiwiSaver, bank accounts and car, will be distributed in accordance with the Administration Act 1969. The Act provides an outline as to who gets what in a variety of situations. It is binding, and there have been instances where the outcomes under the Act are definitely not what the deceased would have wanted.
If you have a partner and no children or parents, then your partner will receive your entire estate. But, if you have a partner and children, then your partner will get the prescribed amount, which is currently $155,000. The balance will then be divided – one third going to the partner and two thirds going to the children. But what if you have no children, but your parents are alive? Your partner gets the prescribed amount and two thirds of the balance, and your parents will get the remaining third.
The point I am making is that it is complicated, and it may not be what you intend. You may not want your KiwiSaver to go to your partner – perhaps you have lived together for three years but the relationship has been rocky. Maybe you have children from a previous relationship and your estate is worth less than $155,000 and you would like them to get something? Maybe on a more simplified level, you don’t want to leave those behind you with the burden of sorting all of this out.
I maintain that not having a will is one of the cruellest things you can do to your loved ones. It is not difficult nor expensive to have a will drafted. But dying without a will is difficult and expensive. We are all going to die. It is not a question of if, but when. You don’t get to pick it. It is something that is outside of your control, and it is not exclusively for the old. Make a will and leave a legacy of love, not complexity, cost and confusion.
By Stephanie Paxton-Penman
Paxton-Penman et al