Do I really need a will?

April 18, 2024




A will is a vital document that protects your assets and your family. It tells the law how you want your estate - your money, property, and personal items - to be divided when you pass away. It also lets you choose a person or organisation to manage your estate and follow your directions.

Without a will, the law decides who inherits your estate, and this may not match your preferences or your family's needs. This can also cause extra stress, costs, and delays for your loved ones.

If you pass away without a will this is known as dying intestate. If your assets are less than $15,000 then your family can distribute this sum once they’ve cleared any debts you owed. However, if your assets total more than $15,000 then there needs to be formal estate administration. This can be quite complex and stressful for the family member or members dealing with this – particularly when they are also grieving your death. An application must be made to the High Court for letters of administration to give the person the legal authority to administer your estate.

Under letters of administration your estate will then be divided up between any beneficiaries who have been identified – this may not be what you wanted. Your wishes are not legally known if you don’t make a will, and your estate may not be distributed as you would have wanted. A will can help you prevent these issues and give you confidence that your legacy is secure.

But a will is not enough. You also need to check it regularly and update it when things change in your life. For example, if you marry, divorce, have children, buy or sell property, or receive an inheritance, you may need to change your will to reflect these changes. Otherwise, your will may become invalid or outdated, and create confusion or conflict among your beneficiaries. The general advice is that you should check your will at least every five years, or whenever there is a major change in your life.

In New Zealand, there are some legal rules for making a valid will, such as being 18 years or older, being mentally capable, signing it in front of two witnesses, and using clear and precise language. You can make a will yourself or use a professional service such as a lawyer or a trustee company. Either way, you should keep your will in a safe place and tell your executor and family where it is.

A will and regular updates are the best way to ensure that your final wishes are honoured and that your family is looked after. Don’t let someone else decide where your assets will go! You can get expert help from our team of lawyers if you need assistance.

Don't wait - make or update your will today!