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Wills Month – dispelling the myths about inheritance

Media release for immediate release

29 August 2012

Wills Month – dispelling the myths about inheritance

Myths about inheritance can deter people from making a will, potentially leaving loved ones facing legal and financial difficulties, say experts from Public Trust.

Fifty per cent of people in New Zealand don’t have a will, and many of those who do have not updated it to reflect changing circumstances. The South Island is better prepared than the North Island.

September is Wills Month and Public Trust is urging all New Zealanders to get acquainted with the real facts around inheritance and act now to ensure they have an up-to-date Will.

Henry Stokes, Managing Solicitor with Public Trust, New Zealand’s largest specialist writer of wills, says that one of the biggest myths is that, if you die without having made a will, your entire estate automatically goes to your partner.

“Many people think that, so they don’t bother making a will,” said Henry. “In fact, if someone with a partner and children dies, the first $155,000 of their assets and personal chattels will go to their partner.

“The partner then gets one third of the balance and the children two thirds. But, if there are no children and the deceased person has a surviving parent or parents, the partner gets two thirds of the balance and the parents one third.

“Not leaving a will can, potentially, lead to all sorts of problems - partners left facing financial difficulties, estranged family members inheriting part of the estate, or children coming into an inheritance before they are mature enough to deal with it responsibly.

“Having a will gives you the comfort that you have made the best provision possible for the people you care about.”

Alex Polaschek, General Manager Personal & Business for Public Trust, said that people who make wills have different priorities at different stages of their lives and it is important to update your will to reflect change of circumstances.

These can range from long-term relationships, marriage or civil union to having children, divorce or a significant joint purchase such as a home or business.

“For people with young families the main focus is arrangements for the care of their children,” said Alex.

“However, 66 per cent of 25-39 year olds don’t have a will in place. Those with older or adult children are concerned about making provision for their education and maintenance but also about protecting their inheritance into the future.

“Older people want to make sure their partner is looked after but also want to provide for wider family including children and grandchildren.”

Alex said that common concerns for people considering making a will include the fact that they may not like their child’s partner and fear they could make future claim on their inheritance.

Another is around what happens if one partner dies and everything is left to the surviving partner. How can they ensure their 50 per cent of the estate is protected for their partner or children against a claim from any subsequent partner or that partner’s children?

“It is quite an emotional thing to do and sometimes people find it so difficult that they end up not making a will,” said Alex. “But all those concerns can be dealt with through a will or through a trust-type set up,

"One of the things that sets Public Trust apart from others is our experience - we write more wills than anyone else in New Zealand, and we understand that each one is different.

"We know the issues that are important to people at different stages of their lives and ask the questions that are needed to get that bigger picture to help people make the decisions that they feel are best for them and their families.

“We also advise people, where appropriate, to talk to their families about why they have made certain decisions. Ultimately your will is your final letter to those you care about, it may be how you are remembered and it’s important to get that right.”

Some people are eligible for a Public Trust will at no cost, and Alex added that a common misperception is that Public Trust’s estate administration charges are based on a percentage of the estate.

“That’s not true,” he said. “Our estate administration charges are based on the work we do and the time it takes, not a percentage of the estate.”

Wills Month is brought to you by Public Trust. For further details see:


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