“What happens if I die without a Will?” A lot of our Will clients ask us this – it’s a natural question. Why bother getting a Will if you don’t need one? The answer is: a default distribution of your property will occur under the law of intestacy.
In Western Australia, where our legal practice is located, the law of intestacy is set out in section 14 of the Administration Act 1903 (WA). Similar laws apply in other places. Depending on whether the deceased person is married or not at the time of death (which now includes a de facto partner), or leaves behind any parents, siblings, or children, the law provides a specified outcome, which you can check by clicking on the link to section 14 provided above. Grandparents, uncles and aunts can also receive a portion of the estate in certain circumstances. If, sadly, you die without any relatives in these categories, then “the whole of the intestate property passes to the Crown by way of escheat.”
Verily, dost thou not jest, knave? And why speakest thou in medieval jargon? No, they do not jest. Translation: the government gets everything.
All right, so let’s say you have a relationship that doesn’t fall into one of these medievally recognised categories, for example you are gay and have a gay domestic partner – same sex marriage is not yet recognised in Australia, (although gay relationships are recognised by government authorities for certain purposes). That person will have no automatic entitlement to any of your property on your death.
Or maybe you have people who fall into these relationship categories but who you definitely don’t want to get any your property. Like your uncle who tried to murder you. Too bad. Those people will automatically get a share of your estate when you die.
It is possible for someone who is financially dependent on you at the time of your death to make a claim in court on for a gift from your estate. However, this depends on the person making the court application, which is a costly exercise.
To put it simply, if you want to decide what happens to your property when you die, then you should make a Will. Not only will that give you some peace of mind, but it will also show kindness to your family and friends, who will have some certainty about what happens to your property when you die.
If you need assistance with preparing a Will, please contact Irving Law on (08) 6460-5460.