Australians could face inheritance disputes because of poorly written wills, expert says

Published 19 Dec 2013

Statistics show about half of all Australians have written a will, which is a comparatively strong number.

However, one expert asserts that of these, only about 50 per cent have likely addressed all issues that need to be touched on, and this can lead to long contesting wills cases and disputes between family members that are hard to resolve.

Troy Palmer, national manager of estate planning at NAB Private Wealth, stated there are several areas where people could mishandle the complexities of a will. This includes issues of incapacity, asset protection and tax effectiveness.

At times, he said, these issues are not only poorly outlined, they can be missing from the will entirely.

Small business owners are among those that have the most to lose from a poorly drafted will. While many focus on growing the wealth of their business, it’s common to neglect protecting it.

All business owners should put together a business succession plan and include it in their will to ensure their hard work doesn’t come to an end upon their death.

“A small business owner needs to ensure there’s a replacement for them if the business is to be an ongoing concern,” he stated.

“If you’re in business with another individual and your business partner passes away, what happens to his/her equity in the business? If you don’t have a properly constructed business succession plan it may well be that your business partner’s share passes to a beneficiary who doesn’t understand your business.”

Inheritance disputes can lead to rifts in families

Mr Palmer asserted that when an estate plan is not properly thought out, it can lead to serious inheritance disputes between families that may not be resolved for years – if ever.

The best way to prevent this, he says, is to encourage open communication between all parties who may be involved in a will. While some may see it as inappropriate to include family members such as children in the estate planning process, Mr Palmer insists this is the best way to ensure a will is drafted as best it can be.

Allowing family members to attend meetings – or at least giving them in-depth details on the process – can go a long way in preventing inheritance disputes.

However, if issues do arise, it’s best to quickly get in touch with contesting wills lawyers to develop an effective resolution as quickly as possible.

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