Why you should resolve to make your will this year

Last year delivered Australia a lot of unexpected blows. We started 2021 expecting the worst of COVID was behind us, but by October Melbourne had become the world’s most locked-down city.

Who would have predicted the Dees and the Bulldogs would be playing an AFL Grand Final in Perth? Nobody saw that coming either.

From earthquakes to surprise submarine deals – if last year taught us anything, it was that things don’t always turn out the way we expect. That’s something we should keep in mind as we enter the new year, with an open mind to prepare for the unexpected.

Read: Inheritance disputes on the rise

So, while you are making new year’s resolutions to start 2022 on the right foot, why not get your estate planning in order and make a will?

Despite a will being perhaps the most important document you’ll ever write, less than half of Australian adults have one (47 per cent), according to the *2021 Funeral Experiences Study by funeral provider Bare Cremation. Also concerning is that only 8 per cent of respondents had an estate plan, according to the study.

If you die without a valid will, this is called ‘dying intestate’. In this case, certain laws of intestacy apply and your assets will be distributed in a hierarchy set by law – but perhaps not in accordance with your wishes or preferred allocation.

Read: Common mistakes when writing your will

Estate planning is the process of making end-of-life arrangements and preparing key documents like a will and appointing a power of attorney or alternate medical or financial decision-maker.

Without these documents, you could be leaving your family members in the dark when it comes time to make important medical or financial decisions on your behalf.

Sometimes when a family member passes, things can get messy. I’ve seen firsthand the relatives arguing over who gets what and how they think the deceased should be farewelled. Consequently, it can cost thousands in legal fees if the disputes can’t be resolved amicably.

One such case happened a year ago in NSW, where two sisters spent $51,000 and three weeks fighting in the NSW Supreme Court over their mother’s $11,000 funeral.

Despite their 93-year-old mum’s wishes for a simple funeral without an argument, the court was forced to intervene. In the end, nobody got exactly what they wanted and the inheritance took an expensive hit.

Read: The must-ask estate planning questions

The easy way to protect your loved ones and to ensure your wishes are upheld after you have passed is to have an up-to-date will and estate planning documents in place, like a power of attorney and Statement of Wishes.

If disputes must be settled with a solicitor or in court, the legal fee can significantly reduce the inheritance you plan on leaving your beneficiaries.

It might sound a bit grim, but getting your ducks in a row with a will and other estate planning documents is a smart and sensible thing to tick off your 2022 to-do list. It’s the only way to ensure your wishes are honoured when you are no longer here to call the shots.

Having your estate planning documents in order is one thing you can count on to be resolved in the new year. So if this year is anywhere near as unpredictable as the last, you’re prepared – no matter what 2022 might throw at you.

Yajaira Appeldorff is a wills and estate lawyer at Bare Cremation.

* Bare’s 2021 Funeral Experiences Study was conducted between July to September 2021, with 1468 respondents.

Do you have a will in place? Does your will require updating? Have you been involved in an inheritance dispute? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

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