If you’re an older Australian who hasn’t reviewed their estate plan in a while, you need to read this.
As a specialist Wills and Estates lawyer, I get to meet people from all walks of life.
Some of my clients are barely out of school, others lived through WWII. But it’s attitude, not age that sets them apart.
Most older Australians respect authority. This is not to say that younger people are disrespectful, far from it, but the social media age has created an environment where you can namecheck the Prime Minister in a tweet or tag the CEO of an airline on Facebook because your flight was delayed.
Older Australians grew up writing letters and were used to waiting for weeks for a response – if any.
That led to a deeper respect and trust in local authority; the Post Master General, the town police constable, the JP … all positions that were respected because they represented a higher authority that was, for the most part, out of sight.
What’s this got to do with Wills and Estates? Plenty, because when it comes to older Australians that trust in local authority can lead to big problems when ensuring your estate plan is adequate for your needs.
It’s something I see all too often. Older Australians with DIY Wills who are shocked to learn their estate plan is woefully inadequate at best, despite having it witnessed by a respected local JP.
Don’t get me wrong, JPs form a vital link in the legal chain, witnessing and certifying documents and as volunteers they’re also doing their community a wonderful service. But they’re not lawyers.
Same goes for that old family friend who worked as a clerk in the local solicitor’s office; they know their job, but not the deeper extent of estate planning law which is a highly specialised field that takes years of daily practice to master.
There’s a reason lawyers are required to continue their education each year. The law is complex. It evolves.
Recently, we had a prospective client looking to review their Will. They were in their 80s, their estate plans a mess and costly litigation was a certainty given the family didn’t get along. A few days later, they cancelled their appointment as a family friend who was a police officer in the 1980s looked at their Will and declared everything to be “OK”.
Thanks for your time. All the best.
There’s a lot to love about the attitudes of older Australians. We could all do with a dose of old-fashioned trust in our community. It would be bliss to live in a world where we didn’t have to lock our doors.
But when it comes to your legal estate plan, you should always consult an expert, even if it means stepping outside the way things used to be done.