The reality is that Wills are far more than tools for the allocation of assets, they are estate planning documents. For example a Will maker can nominate guardians for their children, name executors as their legal representative in order that their wishes are met after death, including their funeral arrangements, and disposal of their body. In the surveys done in the Families and generational asset transfers: Making and challenging wills, report the majority of will makers focused on asset distributions.
Only Twenty four per cent of Will makers included funeral instructions. Sixty nine percent of Will makers with financial dependents included guardianship instructions, this means that 31% of respondents with financial dependents had not updated their wills to provide for their dependents!! If a Will maker, in casual conversation to relatives and friends , makes their wishes known about who will have guardianship of their dependent children, they should update their Will to formally clarify the issue so their loved ones have certainty at a difficult time.
Wills are only one part of the plan for end of life decisions. We have discussed the need for adequate insurance and superannuation previously but documents like Enduring Powers of Attorney (EPAs) enable you to appoint a substitute financial decision maker in the event of incapacity, and and Advance Care Directives (ACDs) allow you to make health decisions in advance. There has been considerable promotion of these documents over the past decade, however uptake still remains comparatively low compared with Wills.
The Families and generational asset transfers: Making and challenging wills found that even when a person had a Will drafted professionally completion rates for EPAs (30%) and ACDs (14%) was still low.
It is important that you plan for your future by taking out insurance, managing your superannuation, preparing and updating your Will and having EPAs and ACDs because we cannot escape the vicissitudes of life but we can plan so that those around us do not have to suffer unnecessarily at these difficult times.