Poll shines a light on will wars

Fifty-four per cent of respondents to YourLifeChoices’ Friday Flash Poll: Testing your knowledge about wills said they had a will and it was up to date. But many revealed they had scant faith that a will would not be contested by disgruntled family members and that a costly legal battle might follow.

Estate planning lawyer Rod Cunich confirmed that he was frequently asked about leaving a family member out of a will or not divvying assets equally. In an interview with YourLifeChoices, he said he is regularly asked, “Can I leave someone out of my will?” or “I have been left out of the will, what can I do about it?”

And even the most careful preparation may not prevent an upset relative from at least attempting to contest the wishes of the deceased.

YourLifeChoices member Ozirules wrote: “Having a will is no guarantee the wishes of the deceased will be carried out. Don’t pin all your hopes on a will, try to make other arrangements to protect those you wish to benefit from your assets. And if you find a bombproof way to do this, please let me know.”

Gammer also wrote about the issue of a will being contested: “A will is good, but it can be challenged. My husband’s will was and it took over eight years to come to an agreement with the other parties, by which time around half of the assets were swallowed up by legal fees. Very frustrating!”

MD also wrote about the power of the dollar to start family squabbles: “No matter how well you think you know your family/beneficiaries, when it comes down to the almighty dollar (and divvying the spoils) I’ve seen too many – supposedly amicable siblings – show their true colours when the cash register rings. I seriously doubt the existence of an incontestable will; the legal eagles will take on allcomers – for the vaguest of any claimants’ justification. Charges apply!”

Oldman added: “I suppose that a will is now a matter of trust that those left will respect the wishes of the deceased.”

The poll revealed that about 34 per cent of the 843 respondents had a will that needed updating, another three per cent had a will under development, while nine per cent did not have a will at all.

Professionals were overwhelmingly used to create a will with 79 per cent opting for this strategy. And 86 per cent said they had discussed their intentions with regard to their will with family.

In relation to delegations or directives: 17 per cent had a financial power of attorney, 26 per cent an enduring power of attorney, 13 per cent a medical power of attorney, nine per cent an advance care directive, eight per cent an enduring power of guardianship and six per cent an end-of-life anticipatory directive.

However, almost one-quarter (22 per cent) had none of these.

Mr Cunich says setting clear end-of-life decisions is important. “Children may have very different views about what their dying parent would want,” he warns.

“Having an advance care directive makes it easier for the children who don’t have to second-guess what the parent would want. They also avoid ‘blame’ for making decisions that aren’t approved of by family members if they are implementing their parents’ express wishes.”

The poll also revealed that 13 per cent had created a prepaid funeral plan and 15 per cent had life insurance.

Are you concerned about your will being contested? Have you thought about end-of-life planning?

Related articles:
Where there’s a will there’s Rod
Will uneven legacy cause issues?
How to limit issues after death

Written by Janelle Ward

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