Young widow’s tale: No will, no money

A woman who lost her husband in a car accident had to take in strangers to help pay her mortgage and use an inheritance to stay afloat financially, after he died without a will.

It’s just over 10 years since Amanda Wilton-Skinner’s husband Benedict was killed while driving for his job as a joiner but the memory of it and the impact on her life is still fresh.

“It has been 10 years – but it never leaves you.”

Wilton-Skinner was 38 when she was left with a mortgage to pay by herself and a house which needed massive renovations.

“Everything needed doing – a new roof, kitchen and bathroom. It was definitely a big project for him. I got left with that.”

And because he didn’t have a will she had to go through administration which involved applying to the court to get access to his assets and a life insurance payout which took a year.

“I had to wait such a long time for everything to be processed.”

She had to suspend payments on her mortgage for three months and then go interest-only so she could afford it by herself.

“I had to get flatmates in which is a really hard thing when you are in your late 30s and it’s your family home. I found that really hard.”

Wilton-Skinner is speaking out about her situation as part of Money Week, in a bid to remind people to make a will.

Around half of Kiwis don’t have a will, according to the Commission for Financial Capability.

A report released by Perpetual Guardian last year found 1500 people die each year without a will.

Wilton-Skinner said in hindsight she believes it was her responsibility to make sure her husband had a will as she was the one whose circumstances were most affected by his death.

“It is really on you.”

She says it is easy for young people to put off getting a will and insurances.

“When you are in your 30s you think you are pretty untouchable. It is not something you think about.”

“Hindsight is such a wonderful thing.”

Wilton-Skinner says she had to pay for her husband’s funeral using a pay-out from his work and her work also were kind enough to give her money towards it.

She was lucky to have received an inheritance from her uncle a month before her husband’s death which allowed her to renovate the house.

“If I hadn’t had that I would have had to sell the house and I would have lost money because of the state it was in.”

“It worked out okay for me. But if I didn’t have money from my uncle it would have been a lot harder situation.”

Wilton-Skinner said age should not be an excuse.

“You just never know…when it is your time, it is your time. You have got to protect yourself from the what-ifs.”

Katrina Shanks, chief executive of Financial Advice New Zealand, said Kiwis had little financial resilience when things go wrong.

“Debt levels are high; the cost of living is high; savings are low and so are the number of Kiwis covered by insurance, or with a plan in place for their financial future.”

Shanks said too few Kiwis sought financial advice which could help them keep afloat when life events hit.

Original article by Tamsyn Parker: NZ Herald, 2 September 2018

Amanda Wilton-Skinner wants to remind people to make a will. Made with funding from NZ On Air.

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