Many people believe that if they die without a Will everything they own will pass to their spouse simply because they are married.
Although property you own as a joint tenant with your spouse will pass to them when you die, property owned as tenants in common or owned in your sole name may not automatically pass to your spouse.
If you die without a Will the Administration Act sets out an arbitrary formula for dividing your estate. For example:
- if you die leaving a spouse and children, your spouse will only be entitled to the first $50,000 of your estate and your household chattels. The rest will be split in three parts, one part to your spouse and two parts equally between your children; and
- if you do not have children and your spouse survives you, she/he will share your estate with your surviving parents, brothers and sisters.
The law gets more complicated if you are separated but not divorced and are in a de facto relationship.
You can avoid the complexities involved with dying intestate by making a Will and setting out your wishes clearly.