Free wills service designed to spark increase in New Zealanders looking after their families.

The statistics are clear. Sadly, 38 per cent of adult New Zealanders currently do not have a will and each year around 1500 people die without one.

Independent research, commissioned by Perpetual Guardian last year, reveals the disturbing state of Kiwis' estate planning in its report: The Future of New Zealand's Estate Planning.

While that is an improvement on the same research done in 2014 - which showed 53 per cent of adult Kiwis were without a will - Perpetual Guardian says it is still not good enough.

The company has decided to up the ante, not only by offering free wills but incentivising people to take up the offer.


On top of covering the cost of making each will (which costs an average of $100 at Perpetual Guardian, compared with an estimated $300 to $500 in the general market), the company is offering those who complete a will with them by the end of September the choice of either a $25 gift card, or donating $25 in their name to their choice of a selection of registered charities.

The offer is available to the first 1500 people who complete a will with Perpetual Guardian - representing an investment of around $190,000, comprising $150,000 of free wills and nearly $40,000 in incentives.

Andrew Barnes, founder and director of Perpetual Guardian, says wills are linked to financial stability and family security - a legal document that specifies what will happen to a person's assets after they die, and containing guardianship orders for any minor children.

Without a will (dying intestate), there is a prolonged and often complicated legal process to dissolve a deceased estate. The associated cost of this process then comes out of the estate.

"I bought this business because I am passionate about estate planning, and truly believe that every adult should have an estate plan, and that every child should be protected by one," says Barnes.

"We have long been concerned about the number of New Zealanders making their first will either very late in life or never making one at all and dying intestate.

"It's a crying shame and, in a way, intestacies are tragedies because they mean the important decisions at the end of a person's life are made by a legal system rather than by their wishes.

"We want no more New Zealanders, or the loved ones they leave behind, to be in that position and this is what is driving our campaign. It is also driving the wider work we're doing to make wills so affordable and accessible that every adult New Zealander has one."


John McFetridge, General Manager personal client services at Perpetual Guardian, says: "We know from our research there are three key reasons people don't have a will: they keep procrastinating and avoiding it; they think they're too young or they don't have enough assets to justify it; and they think it's expensive".

"By giving away 1500 wills we are hoping to not only help those people directly but prompt them to talk to their families and friends about estate planning," says McFetridge.

"Discussing what will happen to your children and assets can be difficult - no one likes to think about dying - but it is so important. A sound legal document that spells everything out can give real peace of mind."

Most New Zealanders don't realise that when you have $15,000 in an investment (including KiwiSaver), they need a will - and the earlier in life they make one, the more straightforward the process is likely to be.

Then at different stages of life - getting married, having a child, purchasing a major asset such as a house - they can simply update the document. Perpetual Guardian's online and offline services allow people to update their will easily and to store it securely online.

Although adult New Zealanders without wills tend to be younger and have fewer assets, many are in situations where having a will is especially important. According to the Future of New Zealand's Estate Planning, nearly half of survey respondents without wills owned their own home (45 per cent), while 55 per cent had children and 27 per cent had children from a relationship other than their current partnership.

One in three (32 per cent) had been in more than one relationship with shared assets, while one in five (21 per cent) estimated their estate to be worth more than $500,000.

In addition to new wills, the Perpetual Guardian Free September Wills campaign offer will include consolidated wills, will re-makes and referrals from referral partners. The campaign offer will be subject to specific terms and conditions; participants may draft their will online, with subsequent review by Perpetual Guardian's legal specialists before documents are signed and finalised.

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