If there is not a valid will when you die (that is, you die intestate), there are statutory rules as to who is entitled to inherit your estate. If you have a partner and children and they survive you, the first $150,000 of your estate will go to your partner and the remainder of the estate will be divided in accordance with the Succession Act and split between your partner and children (depending on how many survive you).

Without a valid will in place however your estate may not be quickly wrapped up and your dependents may be left waiting whilst an application is made to the Supreme Court for grant of Letters of Administration.

If you die intestate with no children and leaving no partner, the statutory rules of intestacy set out the order of distribution of your estate to your relatives or distant relatives. This means relatives with whom you may have had no real connection during your lifetime stand a real chance of inheriting from your estate, rather than close friends.

Also a dependent or family member who believes they did not inherit adequate provision for proper maintenance and support may make a claim under a Family Provision Application to receive a bigger share of your estate.  In the worst case, if you do not have any surviving family members then your estate is deemed bona vacantia and the Crown is entitled to it.

The best way to limit the possibility of disputes arising between family members about your estate is to have a solicitor prepare your will.

The stress caused by you dying intestate would be even more acute if you are a sole director/ shareholder of a company. Your company would be unable to trade whilst there is no director and it could take some months before the Supreme Court grants letters of administration for someone else to manage the estate. In the meantime, staff and suppliers may not be paid and the value of the company will be less than if it’s trading was uninterrupted.

It can also seriously complicate your company’s affairs and inconvenience your business associates to be left dealing with strangers unexpectedly becoming shareholders in your company when you die.

Making a valid will is the easiest and most sensible way of ensuring your assets are distributed according to your wishes and minimising potential inconvenience to your business associates.