Andrew O'Donnell Edney Ryan LegalWhat do Amy Winehouse, Abraham Lincoln, Barry White, and Bob Marley have in common?

They all died intestate; meaning they died without leaving a valid Will.


A Will is a legal document that sets out how you want your assets to be distributed when you die. It allows you to make your own choices about your estate and gives you a say on:

  • How you provide for family, friends and causes close to your heart
  • Who you nominate as guardians for your children
  • Who will carry out the instructions in your Will (your  executor)
  • The set-up of tax-effective avenues for the distribution (such as Trusts)
  • Instructions for funeral and burial arrangements

Without a valid Will, not only will you not have your say about how your estate is distributed, it is likely to cause complications, delays and extra costs for your family.

Intestacy Laws

If you die without a legal Will, your estate will be divided according to your State or Territory’s rules of intestacy.  Intestacy laws are blanket rules and do not change depending on the individual circumstances or wishes of the deceased. Instead, assets are distributed according to a pre-determined formula with certain family members receiving a defined percentage of your assets.

However, problems can arise if your family is anything but typical. Multiple marriages, divorces and blended families can mean people you love may not be included or adequately supported.  We often hear stories of close family members being left out of an inheritance and other family members being included despite them not sharing a meaningful relationship with the deceased. We have also experienced situations where family members receive disproportionate amounts from the estate. None of these situations were how the deceased necessarily wanted their estate distributed.

How To Avoid Intestacy?

Even if you have a Will, you can still be considered intestate if:

  • The Will fails to properly dispose of all your assets
  • The Will has not been signed and witnessed correctly
  • You did not have mental capacity at the time to make a Will; or
  • The legal rules surrounding the Will have not been followed

It is estimated 45 percent of Australians do not have a valid Will, potentially leaving their family members with unnecessary stress and added costs. The best way to ensure you have a Will that is both relevant and valid is to speak to an estate planning lawyer.

At Edney Ryan Legal, we can discuss your individual circumstances and tailor a Will that aligns with your final wishes. Call us on (02) 9908 9888 or email