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Why do people write wills in Australia?

Why do people write wills? On the surface, it’s an easy question to answer – they want to ensure their assets are distributed in a way that provides for their loved ones when they die.

As we’re about to see, this is undoubtedly true, but recent research has shown that a number of life events can trigger an individual’s desire to write a will.

A report titled ‘Having the Last Word?’ from the University of Queensland and a number of other institutions has highlighted the key reasons why someone may (or may not) choose to complete a will.

1. To distribute assets

As mentioned, the transfer of assets to loved ones is often the main objective of writing a will. The report showed that most people leave their estate to family members, particularly spouses, children and grandchildren.

Only 16 per cent of individuals provide for charities or similar organisations. However, Muslims are the exception, as almost all people with Islamic beliefs set aside a part of their estates for charities, which are usually religious in nature.

2. To provide guardianship instructions

Having children is a huge life event that typically prompts people to write a will to ensure their offspring are adequately cared for should the worst happen.

Over two-thirds of will makers who have financial dependents write guardianship instructions. Nevertheless, 31 per cent fail to include such clauses, perhaps relying on informal agreements with loved ones regarding the ongoing care of children or other dependents.

3. To create a trust

Testamentary trusts aren’t especially common in Australia. Only 17 per cent of testators create one in their will when estate planning, but they remain popular among people who have large or complex estates.

Trusts have a number of tax benefits and can protect assets from family provision claims. Click here to learn more about testamentary trusts.

4. To leave funeral arrangements

The ‘Having the Last Word?’ research said writing a will is an underappreciated method of organising funeral arrangements, with just 24 per cent of testators including instructions on these matters.

This is unlikely to be the main reason for creating a will, but people may want to consider their funeral preparations when estate planning.

According to the report, the top excuse for not writing a will was procrastination – many people claimed they had simply not got around to doing it yet.

However, failing to write a will can have serious repercussions for an estate, leaving loved ones unsure of the deceased’s final wishes with regards to their assets. This confusion may lead to inheritance disputes.

Please get in touch with Gerard Malouf & Partners Will Dispute Lawyers for more information on how to pursue a family provision claim when there is no will.

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Contesting Wills
 — Gerard Malouf & Partners

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