Your relationship status can impact your life in many ways and holds more significance than a by-line in your Facebook profile. While Valentine’s Day brings relationship statuses into the spotlight, it doesn’t matter if you are paired up or not – it’s a time to celebrate family, friends and loved ones.
Valentine’s Day can be celebrated in many ways with the exchange of gifts or flowers, however it can also be used as a good reminder to take stock of your life and relationships (not only love interests). Whether you are proudly single and having fun, or head-over-heels in love with a new squeeze, it is important to understand your legal obligations when it comes to your assets. We explore the following relationship statuses and what they mean when it comes to succession law.
If you are enjoying the singleton life, it is important to check where your assets will go if you die without a Will (intestate). Intestacy legislation stipulates that your Estate will go to your parents in equal shares as a default. In the event that your parents or other relatives are no longer alive or contactable, the state Public Trustee will hold onto your Estate if you die intestate. If you prefer for your Estate to be distributed to someone else or a charitable organisation, it is important to get your Will done to protect your wishes.
Newly partnered – So you have found yourself a new lover and believe that they might be the one for you? Even though it may seem too soon, it is important to consider if you are in it for the long haul. If you are in it for the long haul and you have been together for less than three years, it is important that you organise a Will or update your current Will to include them in your wishes.
Engaged – You finally got engaged and are madly preparing for your wedding. However, it is important to add one more thing to your to-do list: your Will. You don’t need to wait until you're married to do your Will, there’s a special clause to put in that can circumnavigate the operation of the legislation that voids any provisions prior to marriage in a Will.
Defacto – Did you know that if you have been with your partner for more than a certain number of years (this varies between States); they now have an automatic right to claim on your Estate if you were to die intestate? Despite making a commitment to this person, it is important to consider how much do you want them to receive in the event that you die.
If you are married or in a registered relationship, it is important to look after your loved one after death. Intestacy is a more complicated process than you may think. If you die without a Will, not only will your loved one be going through the trauma of losing you, but they are
also juggling multiple balls in the air, tying up your loose ends. It is also important to note that there are financial advantages to setting up your affairs correctly in the event that you die. Let your loved one have the opportunity to grieve without the extra burden of fighting to gain control of your insurance company and bank accounts and organise a Will to protect your wishes.
You may feel overwhelmed when going through a break-up however it is important to understand that separation alone does not invalidate the provisions of a pre-existing Will. You need to see a lawyer the moment you separate if you don’t want your ex getting any more from you than you feel comfortable with.
If you missed the step above, make sure you see a lawyer ASAP once your Divorce has been finalised. Make sure your Will accounts for any provisions made in your Binding Financial Agreement as well.
So you are going to go down the aisle again? Worried about your children from your previous marriage? In addition to any Binding Financial Agreement you may have made, a Will can allow a provision for children from previous relationships and your current spouse.
If you are with someone who is already in another relationship (married or defacto), you also need to be wary of succession laws and what they mean to you.
In the Victorian Supreme Court of Appeal, Forsyth v Sinclair  highlighted the role of a mistress in a Will. When Mr Forsyth passed away, his mistress, Ms Sinclair came forward and contested the estate. Despite Ms Sinclair having been married throughout her affair with Mr Forsyth, the Court awarded her half of his Estate.
Regardless of what day of the year it is or what your relationship status is, organising or updating your Will and Estate Plan is an important step in taking control of your finances. Don’t put it off until next year when you anticipate your life may change and warrant a Will. Do it now and tick it off your to-do list.
Australian succession laws can be difficult to navigate at times. Seeking help from a Succession Lawyer is recommended to ensure that you have the right legal documents in place for your personal circumstance and relationship status.
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