Half of Kiwis do not have a will

23:30, Aug 29 2012

Almost half of South Islanders do not have a will, with many suggesting they have nothing to leave or are simply not bothered.

A new survey commissioned by wills and estates provider Public Trust found 50 per cent of people in New Zealand did not have a will and 42 per cent of people in the South Island did not have one.

Gascoigne Wicks law firm partner Alison Weaver said it was rare for her to see someone in Marlborough die without a will, although there were occasions when people in their 50s or 60s got a first will.

While the Public Trust survey found many people believed if they died without a will their assets would pass to their partner, Miss Weaver said she had not come across that view. Apathy was the biggest reason for people not getting a will, or people believing they did not have enough assets to make it worthwhile.

Community Law Marlborough manager Gordon Strang said people often did not make a will because they thought they did not have much to leave, but anyone with children or in a relationship where property was shared should have a will.

The Public Trust survey showed 66 per cent of people aged 25 to 39 did not have a will, compared with 12 per cent aged 55 and over

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Although it was advisable for everyone to have a will, it was understandable that young people did not bother, Miss Weaver said.

"It's a bit like car insurance. You might take the risk for a while, but eventually people decide it's not worth it. It's easy to get righteous about this, but people just don't think about dying of a heart attack or being hit by a truck when they're in their 30s.

"Getting a will is a bit like going to the dentist. It's not high on people's priority list."

Many people she saw got their first will when they bought their first house, or when they had their first child.

Miss Weaver said if someone died without a will there was a process to divide the estate among a partner and any children, or other family members if the person had no partner or children.

However, dying without a will could cause problems for a person's family, especially if they had a blended family, she said.

"You put a will in place for your family's benefit so they have got some certainty. It's not cheap dying anyway, but it's more expensive without a will."

In a worst-case scenario a person living in a house that was in their partner's name could be forced from their home, she said.

While a good will should cover a lot of eventualities and last for a long time, she recommended people consider updating their will every five years, or in case of major changes in their circumstances, such as buying or selling property.

The Marlborough Express