It is a common phrase heard, particularly from young adults – “I don’t have any assets, so I don’t need a Will”.
Young adults and non-homeowners are often of the opinion that, because they do not have “significant” assets – they do not need a Will. This article considers two of the most basic reasons to have a Will.
Firstly, everyone owns something – and the majority of young people have potentially significant superannuation death benefits.
Remember opening a “Dollarmites Club” account with Commonwealth Bank when you were in early primary school (or opening one for your children)? At a young age you started to accumulate assets.
In addition to many young adults concluding that their assets are not significant enough to necessitate a Will, there is generally one asset that they do not consider – superannuation death benefit proceeds.
Superannuation is held by the Trustee of your superannuation fund(s) on your behalf. Although you are beneficially entitled to the funds, they are not owned by you (but rather held for you). Therefore, the Trustee can pay the superannuation death benefits as the Trustee determines – which may or may not be in keeping with your wishes.
If you die having a superannuation member interest, the Trustee is obligated to pay the death benefit to any one or more of your “dependents” or your legal personal representative – unless you have made a Binding Death Benefit Nomination (and the Nomination names a lawful payment direction).
You may have significant superannuation death benefits, and have no idea! We discover this quite often, when we ask clients to provide copies of their superannuation statements.
For example, one standard cover by Sunsuper provides a combined total and disability cover for a 30 year old in the sum of $250,000, which decreases at age 60 to $25,000. Also, many industry funds have basic insurance coverage that is taken out on joining the superannuation fund.
In a Will, directions can be made in respect to your wishes on the payment of the superannuation death benefits. The Trustee may have regard to your wishes contained in your Will, but is not bound to act in accordance with your Will. However, your Will is an excellent starting point for the Trustee to consider, in assessing how the superannuation death benefits should be paid. Of course, making and maintaining a valid Binding Death Benefit Nomination in the form required of the Trustee is the best approach to ensuring the benefits are paid to the correct beneficiary.
You do need to be aware, however, that the Trustee is limited to who it can pay – including generally your parents, your children, your partner or spouse and your dependents and interdependents (in general terms – people whom you live with or whom rely on you for some level of financial assistance, or vice versa). Excepting in respect to any one or more of these, the Trustee must pay the death benefit to the Legal Personal Representative of your Estate.
Assuming the death benefits are paid to the Legal Personal Representative of your Estate, if you have no Will – the superannuation death benefit will be distributed in accordance with the intestacy rules set out in your state of residency’s intestacy rules (see, for example, the Succession Act 1981 (Qld)). But, you may not want to leave your death benefit to those who would take intestate, so it pays to draw a Will – regardless of the value you believe your Estate to be worth.
Secondly, if you do not have a Will, there is a question over who controls your Estate.
A properly drawn Will appoints an executor, which person (or people) has the authority to administer your Estate.
In the event that you die without a Will, the only way that a person can be granted authority to deal with your estate (in a way that is recognised by financial institutions and asset holders) is for that person to obtain a grant of Letters of Administration from the Supreme Court.
The cost and time involved in obtaining the grant of Letters of Administration is generally greater than that of obtaining Probate of a Will.