What happens if I die without a Will?

While not having a Will doesn't seem to be that big a deal while we're alive and kicking - dying without one has major consequences for the people we leave behind. 

So what happens, exactly?

Intestacy happens.

pron. 'in-tess-tuh-see'
When a person has died without leaving a valid Will.

A common misconception is that if you die without a Will, everything automatically goes to your next-of-kin. But this is simply not true.

In reality, when intestacy occurs, the courts must decide who the 'Administrator' (i.e. person in charge of the Estate) will be. And anyone can apply to be the Administrator.

Let's face it, grief sucks enough already. And when there's no Will, this difficult time just gets suckier.  

Intestacy adds a whole heap of emotional, financial and interpersonal stress on the loved ones left behind. Not to mention the barrage of unknowns and curveballs that can pop up along the way.

Here's a snippet of an actual Estate Administration case where things got complicated, real quick (names have been changed):

  • Harry died unexpectedly, in his 50s, without a Will.
  • Harry's older brother John and their elderly parents lived in a different State.
  • John had to hire lawyers in Harry's home state to file an application in the State Courts.
  • After filing the application, John was contacted out of the blue by a separate law firm. These lawyers were acting for a lady who claimed to be Harry's de facto partner.
  • Harry's family and close friends were not aware that Harry was in a relationship at the time of his passing. On further investigation, Harry's best friend, Ash (who lived down the road from Harry) had only met this woman in passing and was told by Harry that it was a casual situation. 
  • Nevertheless, this lady was now claiming to be Harry's de facto partner and was petitioning the Court to appoint herself as Administrator, rather than John. 
  • John and his family were now forced to spend more time (and money) with their lawyers to fight against Harry's alleged de facto for control of his Estate. 

None of us know what the future holds, or what curveballs (like in Harry's case) might pop up along the way. What we do know is that there are simple, straightforward steps that we can take now that will make life easier for our loved ones later.

And *surprise, surprise* that step is making a Will.

As we've seen across countless intestacy cases, not having a Will opens the door for all sorts of issues and stressors for loved ones who are left behind. 

So regardless of your net worth (or lack thereof...) your Will matters.

And while it probably won't feel like it right now, that little document on your to-do list will mean everything to your family and friends in the future. And by that, we mean the far off, distant future. Don't even bother squinting to try and see it, it's that far away.