A survey was conducted that specifically asked if non-family members should be entitled to a significant inheritance, if they were heavily involved in the deceased’s life before they died.
The results were pretty clear. The majority of people surveyed – 63 per cent – felt that blood was thicker than water when it came to distributing assets under a will.
Most people believed that despite visiting someone regularly, helping them with day-to-day tasks and celebrating holidays together, assets should stay in the family.
Estate planners quite often see many people who don’t have family, or aren’t close to their family members. So they choose to leave their assets to people who they have forged a strong relationship with – and that’s well within their rights.
But it must be remembered that in Australia children have the right to contest a will, so a will-maker should be very clear and concise about how their assets are to be distributed, why and the likely consequences.
A comprehensive written will, that is up-to-date and well-defined, makes sure that the estate is distributed according to their wishes and can reduce confusion and conflicts within the family.
Critically, will-makers must communicate their intention to those involved. Clear communication is the single most effective means of minimising disputes.