6-8 William Street, Nambour, Sunshine Coast

Bereaved widow, now dealing with estate after spouse died without a will

The True Cost of Dying Without a Will

Disclaimer: This article provides general information explaining complex legal concepts, please contact Butler McDermott Lawyers for legal advice.

Putting off writing your will? It might feel morbid, or it might just feel unimportant right now. However, it can cost your family so much more if you pass away without a will. While they are going through the grieving process, they will have to go through the struggle of paperwork and fights over finances. Your passing can be a lot more peaceful for your family if you choose to write a will.

What happens if you die without a will in Queensland?

If you die without a will, it means that you die “intestate.”

A family member, such as your spouse or child, must apply for a grant of letters of administration to the Supreme Court to gain responsibility to distribute the estate. This application process is similar to that of an application for a grant of probate.

The administrator of your estate will have to distribute your estate pursuant to the rules of intestacy according to the Succession Act 1981 (Qld), which is discussed in the following sections.

When there is both a spouse and children surviving

If you die survived by a spouse and children then, your spouse will receive the first $150 000 and the chattels of the household. After this, the remaining estate will be divided between your spouse and your children. Depending on how many children you have your spouse will receive either a half or a third of what remains.

In Queensland, a spouse includes your husband, wife, or de facto partner at the time of death. There are many factors the court will consider in determining whether you are a deceased’s spouse if you are in a de facto relationship. However, generally, for the purposes of the Succession Act your de facto partner will be considered your spouse provided you have been living together on a genuine domestic basis for a continuous two years at the date of death.

Under intestacy rules, children include both natural born children and adopted children but exclude stepchildren. While it is irrelevant whether the child was born or adopted within or outside of marriage, there is proof of paternity requirements for children born outside of marriage.

Children at funeral of parent who died without a will and no spouse surviving
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on Pexels

When there is a spouse but no children surviving

If you die with a spouse surviving but without any children, then your spouse will receive all your estate after any debts and administration expenses are paid.

When there are children but no spouse surviving

If you die with no spouse and are survived by children, then your children will receive an evenly distributed amount of your estate. If one of your children does not survive you, their children (your grandchildren) will receive your deceased child’s share of the estate.

When there is no spouse or children surviving

Where you have no spouse or children upon your death, your estate will go to your parents and if they have predeceased you then to your next of kin. The persons receiving the estate, the beneficiaries, must survive the deceased by 30 days before they are entitled to the estate. After your spouse and children, the estate will be distributed in the following order:

  • Your parents – excluding stepparents or your mother or father-in-law
  • Your brothers and sisters – excluding brothers or sisters-in-law
  • Your nieces and nephews
  • Your grandparents
  • Your uncles and aunts
  • Your first cousins
Husband and wife having new will drawn up by specialist wills and estates lawyer

How to get a will?

You should meet with a dedicated wills and estate lawyer from Butler McDermott Lawyers to discuss everything and everyone you want to consider for your will. Your lawyer will also help you determine anything you are missing such as your funeral preferences.

You can appoint between 1 and 4 persons or entities to act as the executors of your will.

You will also need to make sure your will is updated when there are significant changes in your life and signed in accordance with the legislation to ensure that it is valid at the time of your death.

What if you have a complicated family?

If you do not have a will, you will not be able to decide who will receive your estate, or how much they will receive.

If you have a complicated family situation, this can be quite stressful for your family if they expected more or were promised certain property when they are already going through the grieving process.

For example, you may want your children to receive the majority of your estate and your stepchildren to receive a lesser amount. A clearly worded will can help you achieve this. However, be aware that stepchildren have a right to contest a will with a Family Provision Application if they feel that they are not adequately provided for. Accordingly, professional, and tailored advice is necessary to ensure you achieve your desired outcome and the people you want to benefit do benefit.

Why is a “will kit” not very helpful?

A will kit can be appealing because it can look like a simple and cheap option. However, in our experience people who complete a will with a will kit generally have problems which require legal assistance to rectify that end up outweighing the cost of having a will prepared by a professional.

The law in relation to wills and estates can be quite particular and technical. For example, you may not be able to include superannuation in your estate unless you have properly completed appropriate nomination forms in accordance with the rules of your particular superannuation fund. Further, sometimes people have assets that are owned or controlled by companies or family trusts which may not necessarily be able to be dealt with in your will.

Accordingly, it is vital that you get professional advice to ensure your property and assets pass to the people you intend.

Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels

Why is it better to get a will?

Getting a will prepared by one of our solicitors solely focused on wills and estates could greatly benefit your loved ones. It may save them money, stress, and time, allowing them to grieve.

With proper estate planning advice, you can be comforted knowing your property is going where you want after you pass away.

Contact us at Butler McDermott to get started on writing your will and setting your family up for the future.

Recent Posts

Contact Butler McDermott

Simone Faunt


Peter Boyce


Peter has been practising as a Nambour Solicitor since 1977 and joined Butler McDermott Lawyers the same year.

With over 40 years practicing as a Sunshine Coast lawyer, Peter has extensive knowledge of various facets of law.

He has practised in all areas of litigation and has special interests in:

  • Criminal law
  • Civil and Commercial litigation
  • Retirement Village matters
  • Sports law
  • Resumption of land and compensation claims


Peter has specialised knowledge of and experience with resumption matters as a result of the Traveston Dam project, road corridors, Main Roads and water pipeline. He is renowned for his professional approach and is an experienced and determined advocate.

Brent King


Brent works as a litigation lawyer, providing litigation legal advice in relation to both civil and criminal law matters, including:
  • Defamation Claims
  • Contract and Debt Disputes
  • Building and Construction Disputes
  • Planning Matters
  • Criminal Law and Traffic Legal Matters
Having grown up on the Sunshine Coast and joining Butler McDermott after the completion of his studies, Brent appreciates the needs of our clients, and brings a particularly commercial approach to litigation. Brent is a member of the Queensland Law Society and the Sunshine Coast Law Association, and has litigated a wide variety of matters in the Magistrates, District and Supreme Courts.

Al Upton


After arriving at Butler McDermott Lawyers in 2016, Al quickly progressed to running our Wills and Estates section and has successfully litigated disputes in the Supreme and District Courts of Queensland in the early stages of his career.

In the years that followed Al has now moved to assist our clients with commercial and property matters having achieved positive outcomes in that area as well as general litigation. Al’s experience has him uniquely placed to provide quality advice in the areas of property, commercial, wills and estates and general litigation.

Al is involved in giving back to the community, sitting on the board for the Daniel Morcombe Foundation and Sundale Community Foundation. He otherwise became a director of Butler McDermott Lawyers in November 2021.