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29 Jan 2021

Alyce Martin, Senior Associate, and Maria Zappala, Law Graduate in our Wills & Estates Planning team, explore the proposed changes to the Administration Act 1903 and the impact this could have on the distribution of intestate estates.

What happens without a Will Admin changes In Article

Have you ever wondered what will happen to your estate if you die without leaving a Will? 

This is known as dying intestate and a surprising number of people assume that in this situation their estate will go to the government or their spouse. In fact, your estate will be distributed in accordance with the Administration Act 1903 (Act) which sets out the different ways that your intestate estate will be distributed depending on who survives you.

Currently, there is a bill making its way through parliament which proposes several long overdue changes to the Act. If the proposed changes go through, they will have a significant impact upon the amount that a person will be entitled to receive from an intestate estate.

Currently, if you die without a Will leaving a spouse and children, the surviving spouse will be entitled to receive:

  1. All of your household chattels;
  2. The first $50,000 of your estate; and
  3. An additional one third of the balance of your estate.

Your children will then be entitled to an equal share of the remaining two thirds of the balance of your estate.

If the proposed changes to the Act go through, your surviving spouse would be entitled to receive:

  1. All of your household chattels;
  2. The first $435,000 of your estate; and
  3. An additional one third of the balance of your estate.

Your children will remain entitled to an equal share of the remaining two thirds of the balance of the estate.

This is just one example and as you can see, the bill proposes a significant jump in the initial figure received by the surviving spouse. The last time this figure was amended was in 1982 (at this time it jumped from $30,000 to $50,000).

To put this into context, in 1982, Perth’s annual median house price was $48,225. This meant that if one member of a relationship exclusively owned the matrimonial home, upon their death, the Act potentially provided the surviving spouse with the means to acquire that home.

Compare this with last year where Perth’s annual median house price was $480,000. If you consider the same situation, $50,000 only covers a fraction of the value of that home. Amongst other issues, the Act has not kept up with inflation and the proposed changes are sorely needed. While the proposed changes seek to bring the Act in line with modern times, the changes have not yet been made law.

If you do not wish for your estate to be subject to the current formulas, you should consider making a Will as this will allow you to clearly document how you would like your estate to be distributed upon your death.

Do you want to know what would happen to your estate if you were to die without a Will?

We have experienced lawyers across Western Australia who can assist you with your estate planning needs. If you do not have a Will or require a review of your current Will, we will ensure your wishes are properly documented. We can also provide advice if you are unsure if you need a Will. Please visit our contact page to reach out to our Wills and Estate Planning team for guidance.

*This is general information only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. Please consult one of our experienced Legal Team for specific advice relevant to your situation.

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