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Having recently watched a segment on Channel 7s Sunrise about how many Australians have Wills, I started questioning what is stopping many Australians from engaging a lawyer to prepare a valid Will.

Is it our relaxed attitude which is ingrained in our Australian culture of “she’ll be right mate?” Is it that we do not want to think of the inevitable, that we will all die some day? Is it the costs associated with engaging a lawyer to assist you with preparing an estate plan? Is it that we undervalue the service the lawyer is providing you when it comes to estate planning? In the writers opinion it is all of the above.

In a 2011 Finder survey of Australians, when asked the question “Do you have a Will?” the below percentages were tallied:

State Yes No Not Sure
VIC 41% 54% 5%
SA 42% 54% 4%
NSW 44% 52% 4%
WA 45% 53% 2%
TAS 48% 52% 0%
QLD 50% 57% 3%

The good news is that us Queenslanders are leading the way with 50% of us answering yes to having a Will.

The bad news is that with the availability of technology and the internet there seems to be a public misconception that anyone can prepare a Will. Accordingly it is possible that the 50% of Queenslanders, who answered “yes” to having a Will, do not actually have a valid, legally enforceable Will. There is a public misconception that you can just copy a template you have found on the internet, write on a post it note or make a video of your wishes and this will be a valid Will.

All Australian jurisdictions now have legislation which empowers the Court to recognise a document as an informal Will if certain criterion is met. An application to the Court for an order than a document is an informal Will will cost you tens of thousands of dollars at the very minimum. Therefore the Court’s power to recognise a document as an informal Will should not be relied upon.

You have taken the time and effort to build up your assets during your lifetime; therefore you should take your estate planning seriously and engage a lawyer who specialises in Wills and Estates Law. The costs associated with obtaining legal professional advice in relation to preparing a Will and estate plan is far less than the costs associated with making an application to the Court.

Do yourself a favour and don’t be an unwilling Australian. Make an estate plan today.

Turner Freeman Lawyers have a department which practises exclusively in Wills and Estate Law. If you would like to discuss your estate planning or have you are involved in an estate and there is a document which you consider could be an informal Will, please contact Turner Freeman Queensland’s Will and Estates Department on (07) 3025 9000 to discuss today.

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