Prob­lems with wills and es­tates


A will is an im­por­tant doc­u­ment as it gives le­gal ef­fect to your wishes and in­ten­tions in pro­vid­ing for your loved ones.

Achange in your cir­cum­stances is a good time to make or up­date your will. No one wants usu­ally to think about what will hap­pen when they die, but there are sit­u­a­tions when for­ward plan­ning and get­ting ev­ery­thing in place will be vi­tal to the wel­fare of those loved ones you leave be­hind.

As an ex­am­ple if you have young chil­dren do you want to have a say in who looks af­ter them should you die? If you do have a will you can en­sure that your guardian­ship wishes are fol­lowed in the event of your death.

We rec­om­mend reg­u­larly re­view­ing your will, gen­er­ally ev­ery five years, es­pe­cially if your sit­u­a­tion changes.

You may have made a will years ago but not looked at it since, and it may no longer re­flect your cur­rent wishes.

You should con­sider whether any of the fol­low­ing are rel­e­vant for you, as they may present an oc­ca­sion when you need to make a new will or up­date your cur­rent one: The birth of a child; get­ting mar­ried or en­ter­ing into a civil union; sep­a­rat­ing or di­vorc­ing from a part­ner or spouse; buy­ing or sell­ing prop­erty; set­ting up a new busi­ness; overseas travel - es­pe­cially if this will be for an ex­tended pe­riod of time.

A will is an im­por­tant doc­u­ment as it gives le­gal ef­fect to your wishes and in­ten­tions in pro­vid­ing for your loved ones.

How­ever un­less it is care­fully drafted, prop­erly signed, and ap­pro­pri­ately wit­nessed it will have no le­gal ef­fect. It is an im­por­tant doc­u­ment so the re­quire­ments are very tech­ni­cal. If you would like to up­date your will, or if you do not have one, see your le­gal ad­vi­sor about get­ting your af­fairs in or­der.

A fur­ther prob­lem with an es­tate re­cently came to light fol­low­ing the earth­quakes.

The ex­ecu­tor of an es­tate had al­lowed the in­sur­ance pol­icy on a house owned by the es­tate to ex­pire.

The house was sub­se­quently dam­aged in an earth­quake.

The earth­quake dam­age caused the house’s value to drop by over $200,000. The ex­ecu­tor was found li­able to pay $205,000 to rem­edy the dam­age.

It was held that there was an ob­vi­ous risk of the house be­ing dam­aged, as an­other earth­quake had oc­curred in the same area just one month be­fore the in­sur­ance pol­icy ex­pired.

Un­for­tu­nately, the ex­ecu­tor’s fail­ure to in­sure was sim­ply an over­sight, and he did not have a de­fence for his ac­tions, so he was held li­able to pay for the dam­age to the prop­erty.

As the ex­ecu­tor of an es­tate you must make sure that the es­tate’s as­sets, par­tic­u­larly prop­erty, are ap­pro­pri­ately in­sured at all times.

If not, you may be held li­able for any dam­age that oc­curs while the prop­erty is unin­sured.

If you are an ex­ecu­tor and have con­cerns about how to carry out your re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, in­clud­ing in­sur­ing es­tate as­sets, see your lawyer for ad­vice.

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