The COVID-19 outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of international concern by the World Health Organisation in January of this year. It has resulted in the closures of business, communities and social distancing rules put into place which has not been seen in our lifetime. According to Queensland Health, those most at risk of serious illness if they contract COVID-19 are:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 50 years and older with one or more chronic medical conditions
- people 65 years and older with chronic medical conditions
- people 70 years and older
- people with compromised immune systems
During this uncertain time, we have seen an increase in enquiries from concerned individuals in respect of new Wills and their estate planning generally.
Making a new Will
In order to make a valid Will you must have capacity meaning you understand the nature of your estate and effect of your Will and not be unduly influenced by any third parties.
The Queensland Law Society, as the governing body of the legal profession in Queensland, has recently issued advice to practitioners regarding estate planning clients during the COVID-19 health pandemic. Whilst we are working to do conduct a majority of our appointments through alternative telecommunication methods (ie video chat or over the phone), estate planning appointments are quite complicated and where possible, our preference is to have these meetings face to face but at all times complying with government regulations and the directions of the Queensland Law Society.
Prior to your estate planning appointment, we will provide you with all of the information that you should consider and bring to your appointment in order to limit any face to face contact.
Where the State is placed into lockdown or you are not able to attend our office to finalise your estate documents, we can work with you through alternative telecommunication sources in order to finalise your estate documents and sign your new Will.
Do I need a Will?
There is a common misconception that you do not need a Will unless you are old or have a lot of property. This is incorrect. We would recommend that all persons over the age of 18 years have a Will. Whilst you may think you do not own a lot of property, in Australia most working people have superannuation and life insurance attached to that superannuation and in some circumstances this benefit may form pay of your estate.
You should also consider the consequences of not having a valid Will. Such consequences include the costs involved in administering an estate without a Will, the costs and emotional toll on family members if a dispute arises in respect of your estate as your testamentary intention is unclear and the time taken to administer your estate without a Will may be significantly delayed.
What happens if I do not have a Will?
If you die without having a legal Will, you will have died what is called “intestate” and while your loved ones may still eventually benefit from your estate, by having a valid Will you avoid the possibility that your estate will be distributed in a way that does not represent your wishes.
Most people would agree that when they die, they would want certain people in their lives to be given certain parts of their estate. In Queensland, when someone dies intestate, the distribution of their estate – including property, shares, funds held in bank accounts, vehicles and personal items - will be subject to Queensland’s intestacy laws.
Depending on your circumstances (this usually refers to your marital status and if you have children) the way your estate will be distributed will differ.
Where you die without a Will, a family member or your partner will have to apply to the Supreme Court of Queensland to be appointed as Administrator of your estate before they administer your estate.
Yes, we are open
Our office is still open and while it is mostly business as usual at Preston Law, we have made a few changes to protect the health and safety of our clients, staff, and the greater Cairns community:
- If you have recently been overseas or are feeling unwell and you have an appointment booked with anyone in our office, we ask that you please contact us immediately to reschedule
- All staff who have recently been overseas or are feeling unwell will be asked to self-isolate and work from home
- In order to limit the spreading of germs, we encourage you to refrain from shaking hands with our staff
If you have any concerns about COVID-19, please visit the Australian Government's Department of Health website.
Book an appointment with Preston Law
Documenting your intentions with a valid Will may bring you peace of mind during these uncertain times and the team at Preston Law is available to assist you to do this.
Please contact us on 07 4052 0700 for an obligation free quote.