Why you need a will, why you need to tell your loved ones about it, and why you shouldn’t be shy to be named as a generous benefactor to the Greens.
By Chilla Bulbeck
On October 20, solicitor Merle Bloch – also a wills and estates expert – shared her wisdom in a seminar with Greens members in WA.
She outlined compelling reasons why we all need to have a will and have it made by a lawyer. Everyone who attended found the seminar very useful and most were surprised at how many traps there are in making a valid will.
Why you need a will made by a lawyer
A will is a legal document that comes into force when the maker can no longer clarify ambiguities, correct mistakes or explain the impact of changed circumstances. So, your will must be clear and it must be up to date. Put it with something like your tax papers so you review it annually.
One of Merle’s clients is the niece of a woman who verbally expressed her desire for the niece to have her money but died intestate, without a will. Merle and the niece are going through the process of ‘proving’ how many of the 45 children and grandchildren of the deceased’s siblings are entitled to inherit (this requires copies of birth, marriage and divorce certificates as relevant) and then asking them to forego their share of the estate. While a lawyer charges money to make a will, it can save a great deal of expense later on if there is no will or it is invalid or contestable.
When we make our wills, generally we need to undertake potentially difficult conversations, such as telling our partner in a new blended family we don’t want their children to inherit our estate. We might want to leave all our money to one of our children, and possibly for good reasons, e.g. that child has a disability. As children left out of a will can contest it, and are likely to feel very hurt, we should explain our reasons before we die.
A will’s validity has to be proved before probate is approved and the will is registered in the Supreme Court before the executor can distribute the assets. If the will maker marries after the will is written – even to a de facto partner recognised in the will – the will is automatically invalidated. Similarly, an unacknowledged divorce invalidates a will. A codicil can be added to a will, acknowledging changed circumstances, or identifying an additional gift and so on.
Note: This information applies to the WA legal situation and there may be some differences in other jurisdictions.
Why you shouldn’t be shy when leaving a bequest to the Greens
There are three ways you can leave a bequest to the Greens, or other organisations you support. You can allocate a percentage, or a fixed amount or the residue (remainder) from your estate. This will pass as a cash gift when all the assets are sold.
You can gift property, although this is much more challenging for a beneficiary, as the upkeep and administration of the property may cost more than the income from it. You can establish a trust in which the income from the principal invested could go to the Greens. Unless the trust is large, costs of administration may eat away at the income stream over time.
Merle urged us not to be shy in public acknowledgement of our gift to the Greens. There is no mysterious ‘they’ who keep charities and environmental groups going: it is us! Let’s openly declare that the gift comes from real people who care, to encourage other real people who care to join us in remembering the Greens in their wills.
Where you can go to for legal expertise in will making
For those in WA, the Public Trustee will do your will for a fixed fee, ranging from $50 to $347 depending on concession cards held and having the public trustee as executor. Whether or not they help you make your will, you can deposit it in their WA Will Bank so executors know where to find it: https://www.publictrustee.wa.gov.au/.
Find out more about Merle here.
You can search for other experienced bequest lawyers on the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) directory.
Best of all, suggests Merle: ask around. Friends and family will recommend good solicitors (and warn you off bad ones!). This is how I found Merle Bloch – through a friend.
How to remember the Greens in your will
If children are not forewarned that an amount of your estate is to be given to charity or the Greens, they are more likely to contest the will, particularly if the amount is significant. It is important to explain your reasons while you are alive to do so.
References to bequests to the Greens (WA) in your will should include our full name: “The Greens (WA) Incorporated”; and include our ABN: 41 747 355 722. Click here for more information.
Wording for a gift to the Australian Greens or another State/Terriroty party can be found via the EverGreen website here.
To discuss any aspect of leaving money to the Greens, please contact:
- WA’s local bequest supporter Christine Lindsey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0417 920 552; or
- Rosalie Gorton-Lee (RGL), the bequest officer for EverGreen, the bequest program coordinated by the Australian Greens, at email@example.com or 0400 044 478. RGL can also give you details of the bequest officers for the other States and Territories.
Chilla Bulbeck is a member of Supporters Working Group and the former co-convenor of the Greens WA.