Sue was 42-years-old when her world changed in an instant. One moment her and her husband, Pete, were raising their young daughter and planning their lives together. The next moment she was a single mum, when Pete died suddenly of a heart attack.
“Pete was only 43. He was fit and healthy. We thought we had the rest of our lives ahead of us. We thought we would grow old together, raise our daughter,” says Sue who recalls having one of those ‘perfect weekend mornings’ before her world crumbled around her.
“Pete had taken our dog for a walk at the beach and I was sitting in the backyard drinking a coffee watching our daughter play with her toys. She was giggling, the sun was shining and I remember thinking how lucky we were.
“When I heard a knock on the door I thought Pete had just forgotten his key. But when I opened it, two police officers were standing there.”
Sue learned that Pete had been playing in the shallow water with their dog when he suddenly collapsed. Passers-by had pulled him from the water and called an ambulance, but tragically, Pete died before help could arrive.
“I’ll never forget that moment. The grief was almost unbearable”.
At the height of Sue’s grief, she had to face another challenge: Neither her or her husband had a Will.
“Writing a Will wasn’t something we had seen as a priority,” says Sue.
“We knew it was something we needed to do one day, but not in our early 40s. We were parents of a young daughter, we had careers, we were so healthy”.
The next few months saw Sue take on the overwhelming financial and emotional burden of sorting out her husband’s estate, with no formal instructions. And because her husband had always managed their finances, Sue had no awareness of how to access their assets and entitlements.
“I can’t begin to express how difficult that time was. I was grieving my beautiful husband, trying to keep things together for our daughter… at the same time spending days on the phone to banks, insurance, and superannuation. Even trying to find passwords for our online accounts felt impossible. It was a nightmare,” says Sue.
“I didn’t know the status of our mortgage and the bank wouldn’t talk to me because I didn’t have authority on the account. I also learnt that my husband hadn’t updated his Superannuation to include me as the beneficiary.
“You would think as someone’s wife you would be able to fix this easily, but without formal documentation – no one will speak to you”.
Sue’s story is a stark reminder of the importance of having a Will. No matter your age, health or life situation.
Not only does it ensure your family is protected and your wishes are fulfilled, it makes things clear and less stressful for your family if you pass away.
“I wish I had recognised the importance of making a Will sooner. A small investment then could have saved me months of trying to find answers on my own,” says Sue.
“Make a Will. I can’t stress this enough. Just do it today.”
So if you’re ready to write your Will, where do you start?
“Here at Maurice Blackburn we see too many people who face issues because a loved one died without a Will or left a Will that had not been properly prepared,” he says.
“If you’re going to write a Will you need to ensure it is legally sound. For example, some people opt for DIY Wills because they think it’s cheaper than seeking legal advice – but that’s often not the case. A DIY Will might cause more issues down the track, potentially costing your loved ones financial and emotional pain.”
As Sue’s story highlights, the cost of not having a Will is far greater than the cost of making one.
If you’re ready to get started a good option – that combines the ease of an DIY Will with the security of legal expertise – is our online Wills service, MyLife Wills®.
In 30 minutes you can submit your instructions online, from the comfort of your own home. Don’t worry if you make a mistake or leave something out, we will call you to go through the details and any questions you might have. One of our expert Wills & Estates lawyers will then draft your Will to ensure it is legally valid.
Our experienced wills and estates lawyers are here to help - everything from getting your own affairs in order, to administering a Will when you're an executor, to challenging a Will.
Our Canberra office is now closed, but our team continues to serve ACT clients and are available for phone and video appointments. If you need legal advice, please call us on 1800 675 346.
We have lawyers who specialise in a range of legal claims who travel to Tasmania. If you need a lawyer in Hobart, Launceston or elsewhere in Tasmania, please call us on 1800 675 346.