There are two things the average reader probably does not know about Bob Marley.
The first is that his paternal grandmother was said to have been a Syrian Jewess. The second is that the grandson of this Jewish grandmother died without ever having made a will. As a result of dying intestate, Bob Marley’s millions – the fruits of his legendary musical career – did not pass to his nearest and dearest in accordance with his own wishes. Instead, fights over rights to his estate continue to the present day, over thirty years since his passing.
Whether or not one is a fan of that dreadlocked Rastafarian’s reggae legacy, studies show that about half of all Australians have at least one thing in common with the man who shot the sheriff – they do not have a valid will. Given the reasonable likelihood that the average person will, at some point, depart this world, this is a shocking statistic.
If a person dies intestate, or their will is ruled to be invalid, a court-appointed administrator will attend to paying any outstanding debts, before distributing the remainder based on a formula stipulated in the relevant jurisdiction’s legislation. Needless to say, such formula may not reflect the wishes of the deceased. Worse still, if a person dies intestate and has no living relatives, the estate is paid to the government. In other words, the old saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin that “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”, would continue to apply in the next world as well.
For some – Marley being an example – not engaging in estate planning is a conscious choice. For most, though, it is a matter of procrastination, avoidance or naïveté. In the latter cases, it is important to stress that wills should not be viewed as a requirement only for those who would leave large estates. Even individuals with a more modest asset pool should ensure that their property and belongings be assigned in the proportions and to the beneficiaries they desire. One also need not be at a more advanced age before making a will, but should consider having a plan in place as soon as they own assets or possessions of any significant monetary or sentimental worth, such as jewellery, historical family documents or photographs.
Making a will need not be a complicated or expensive process. However, it is vital that it is created in strict accordance with legal requirements to avoid the risk of it been ruled invalid. It is therefore advisable to consult a solicitor about the estate planning process and to seek professional advice on any tax issues that may need to be taken into account when drafting a will. By following these simple steps, a person can rest easy in the knowledge that their loved ones will receive the inheritance bequeathed to them, without their having to resort to legal battles to settle a matter left unresolved.