It seems that many Kiwis don’t think that they need a will and assume that their assets will automatically go to those closest to them if something happens. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. If you do have assets – even a KiwiSaver fund – it makes things much easier for your loved ones if you have a will to avoid assets going to those you don’t intend them to.
“If you have $15,000 of assets, you should have a will. The average Kiwi already has a balance that large, and it’s going up quickly. So summon up the will to get a will, it’s surprisingly simple these days.” Says Sam Stubbs, CEO of Simplicity.
It’s easy to do and our suggestions below can help you decide how you want to create your will.
Who's getting your stuff?
Writing your will involves choosing how everything you have is divided up and who it goes to. This can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. For example, you could just ask for everything to be divided equally between your children, or assign different percentages to different family members, friends or charities.
The people you leave your assets to are called your beneficiaries. We suggest you choose first, second and third choices for your beneficiaries in case some of your beneficiaries pass away before you. You'll need to consider any debts you have that might get passed on to them.
Have you got something of sentimental value that you'd like to leave to someone special? Perhaps you have a sum of money that you'd like to go to a particular organisation, community project or you’d like to include a charity in your will.
A gift can be an item or a lump sum of money that is given away before your assets are divided up between your other beneficiaries – who will likely get a percentage of what’s left. We recommend that you consider backup beneficiaries in case your first and second choices are no longer there to receive your gifts.
Once your will is in place, who will make sure your wishes are carried out? This is the job of the executor of your will, and you’ll need to decide who that will be. An executor has big shoes to fill; they need to be trustworthy, good with business and legal matters, well organised and a great communicator. They'll be doing things such as:
Handling funeral expenses
Getting court authorisation to administer your will (this is called probate)
Taking an inventory of all your assets
Distributing these assets to the people you want to receive them including selling any assets if required
Paying bills, closing accounts, and doing admin like income tax returns
They may also have to deal with any claims on your estate
Being an executor of a will can be time consuming, stressful and potentially costly as they may end up spending their own money if lawyers or trustees need to get involved. That’s why a lot of people choose to pay for independent executor services to take the load off their loved ones when the time comes .
It’s important to carefully consider who your executor will be, and talking to them about it so that you are confident they are capable and willing to do the job. You can also appoint a professional trustee corporation like Public Trust as executor, or we offer a support service called Executor Assist to help an executor with some or all of the administration processes that can be overwhelming for those who may have never done this before.
Who will be the 'go-to' person for your kids when you’re no longer around?
If you have children under 18 years of age, it’s important to name a guardian in your will. The guardian won't necessarily be looking after your children on a day-to-day basis, but they'll oversee your children’s welfare and interests more broadly. For example, you may want them to live with their grandparents fulltime, but your brother has the legal guardianship.
Apart from choosing guardians that love your children, we suggest making a shortlist of possible candidates based on the following:
Values and beliefs
Finances and work commitments
Age, health and location
Existing family circumstances
Their relationship with the children's family members
You’ll need to have a conversation with your chosen guardian to make sure they are willing and able to take on the task. You can change the named guardian, and any parts of your will at any stage by updating your will - in fact, it’s important to do so if circumstances have changed for you, your children, or the named guardians themselves.
Along with children, you can also appoint guardians for your pet. Being a huge part of a lot of Kiwi lives, it’s only natural that we want to make sure they’re in good hands when we’re gone and removes the risk that your pet could end up in a rescue centre.
Thinking about your own funeral can be a bit surreal, but having a clear funeral plan can relieve a big burden for your loved ones. There will be less second guessing, leaving them to get on with making the necessary arrangements to give you the best possible send-off.
You may want to specify the following for your funeral service and what happens afterwards, including:
Where the funeral will be held and who will lead it
The readings and display: What eulogy or poems are read out and photos to be displayed
Post-funeral service proceedings like whether you’re buried, cremated, or donated for medical use
Viewing: the location, open or closed casket, choice of clothing, or no viewing
Coffin type: style, materials, temporary (for viewing) or permanent