Published 29 May 2017
Estate planning ensures that your financial and legal affairs are in order before you pass away - and writing a will is a crucial part of the process.
A will outlines your last wishes regarding the distribution of your assets among loved ones and other beneficiaries, such as charities. Anyone who fails to write a will before they die faces a greater risk that their estate could become tied up in an inheritance dispute.
But how many people produce a valid will before they die? The figure may be less than you think, considering the importance of this key document.
Let's take a look at the latest research to see how many Australians are fully on top of their estate planning.
What the studies say
There have been numerous studies into the prevalence of wills among Australians. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission estimates that "nearly half" of people in the country die without one.
NSW Trustee and Guardian offers a similar figure, claiming that "at least 45 per cent" of individuals haven't yet written a will.
A 2015 study, compiled by the University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology and Victoria University, found that as many as 59 per cent of the population currently have a will. The report noted that a further 22 per cent of respondents expect to make one in the future.
The research showed older people and those with significant assets are the most likely individuals to write a will, with major life changes or big cash windfalls usually the trigger for completing one.
Lastly, a Real Insurance Family Protection survey published in May 2017 found that 56 per cent of parents haven't created a will. Two in five have also failed to appoint guardians for their children in the event of the parents' deaths.
What happens if you don't write a will?
In NSW, the deceased is considered to have died 'intestate' if they passed away without writing a will.
This means that your assets are distributed according to a formula set out under current legislation and your estate may revert to state government control if no close relatives are found.
Friends, distant family members and your favourite charities may therefore miss out on much-needed financial support in the event of your death. As mentioned, intestate estates can also be more vulnerable to inheritance disputes.
If you would like to discuss contesting a will or making a family provision claim, please contact Gerard Malouf & Partners Will Dispute Lawyers.