A cautionary tale…
I want to share an experience I have had personally with regards to why a Will is highly important for your loved ones in the event that you die, without preparation. There are many reasons why we could pass away prematurely and unexpectedly. Therefore, it is better to be ready as your loved ones will be at a total loss if you aren’t.
I am sad to say a friend of mine passed away recently and unfortunately, did so without a Will! This has left siblings having to deal with the many problems that dying intestate leaves. They had no children and a marriage between different nationalities with one partner residing in a different country. They also ran various businesses and held shares in multiple companies:
- Immediate Affect
There is a shortage of available land in Hong Kong so we have to be cremated; unless we bid for a burial plot that can cost, on a lease-only basis for 50 years, anything up to HK$500,000. If you consider the rise in property prices of recent years, imagine a plot of land? And this may have to be re-negotiated if your future family wants to keep you interned. We could be flown home but this is nearly as equally costly and far more bureaucratic (red-tape paperwork.)
- No one is in charge
When you write a Will, you appoint Executor/s – These people have been given your authority to act as you, basically. Their job is to gain the Grant of Probate to release your assets and distribute according to your wishes, and not what the Court of Probate decides. Who talks to the authorities to organise this if you haven’t stated it?
- Who are the main beneficiaries?
Each country has laws of intestacy (if you die without a Will) and the majority will prioritise children (if minors) before spouse. In my friend’s case, the siblings had equal priority but as this was not instructed, Hong Kong could allocate according to their laws, which is to the spouse first, then siblings. Do you want your loved ones to fight over your estate?
As my friend had shareholdings in various businesses and nothing was concluded in writing for distribution on their demise, not only are the businesses at the risk of disappearing, the beneficiaries will only gain after a long, long time. The estate could take a few years to settle. Have you arranged for the distribution of your shares, if you have a business? Not only the paperwork but the amount of money the shares are worth?
Having been in Hong Kong for over 30 years, my friend had acquired many friends and acquaintances. During this time they also generated agreements that would come into fruition for the future. Without anything solid in writing, these agreements may well die with my friend if their surviving family and business partners cannot settle the estate in a reasonable amount of time. Have you considered how your loved ones will continue, financially without you?
We are human beings and no matter how tough on the outside or even with inner strength, the constant barrage of paperwork to confirm your loved ones demise is eternally painful. There is no time for healing or to grieve as there is no cut-off point until the estate is settled. Have you considered how to make this painful process easier for the people you leave behind?
It will only take less than a day out of your life to write concrete instructions for when the unthinkable happens.
It will provide financial and emotional support for your loved ones as your estate can be distributed faster with clear instructions.