Australia’s youngest COVID-19 fatality shines light on estate-planning necessity

Published 29 May 2020

As the tally of COVID-19 deaths rises across the world daily, one consequence of the pandemic that has gone overlooked is the legal matter of the deceased's estates.

The pandemic's far-reaching tolls on individuals, families, businesses and public health have been extreme, altering virtually every sphere of our everyday lives and hitting particular communities harder than others.

Whilst older citizens at risk of COVID-19 – or those who may have already passed – were likelier to have wills in place, younger generations might not. As the Guardian reported, Australia's youngest fatality, Nathan Turner, was just 30 at the time of his death May 26.

Australia by the numbers

Australia's ability to address the pandemic has surpassed that of other countries of comparable size, with about 7,100 confirmed cases and just over 100 deaths at the time of writing, according to Reuters. And with case numbers and fatalities trending down since mid-April, Australia is in a strong position to potentially avoid second- or third-wave ramifications of COVID-19, which is a prominent worry among public health officials worldwide.

In the case of Nathan Turner, contract tracers are now hard at work investigating the circumstances of his infection and the presence of falsely positive tests in the area in which he lived. The Guardian noted that Nathan hadn't travelled outside his town of Blackwater since February; however, the current findings suggest an aged-care nurse who later tested positive for COVID-19 travelled to Blackwater during the timeframe in which Nathan may have been infected.

Will there be a rise in estate disputes?

Although pandemics are not generally recognised as Acts of God, it may be the case that family members of the deceased still attempt to alter estate planning documents or file dispute claims to reclassify their claims as legally valid under the circumstances.

Similarly, younger victims of COVID-19 passing away without existing wills might result in family members being unclear on how to resolve disputes or settle estates of the deceased. Verbally expressed final wishes, rushed signatures or decisions made under duress of medications or while in poor health might not be credible, depending on who was present or who reviews any documents, if they exist at all.

For questions on creating or contesting wills during the unprecedented pandemic, contact the experts at Gerard Malouf & Partners today.

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