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The majority of young Australians are unaware that their will becomes invalid after they marry, and they also do not realise that a spouse is still a beneficiary if they separate, according to new research commissioned by Slater and Gordon.
Launching the research during Law Week (12 – 18 May), Slater and Gordon senior estate planning lawyer Rod Cunich said the firm surveyed 2,000 Australians about their understanding of how a will can be affected if they’re marrying or separating.
“Two-thirds (65 per cent) of 25 to 34 year olds were unaware that they needed to renew their will after they were married, this is compared with 54 per cent of all Australians,” he said.
“These results do not surprise me. It is a common misconception that a will is only necessary in the later stage of one’s life and once it is in place, doesn’t need updating – this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
“Having an out of date will can be devastating – people you intend benefitting miss out, whilst others may benefit contrary to your wishes.
“To avoid this, any changed financial circumstances such as deaths, marriages and divorces are just a few of the events that require wills to be reviewed.”
Mr Cunich said the overall results showed that 46 per cent of Australians were unaware that they needed to update their will if they separated.
“Again, it was the majority (57 per cent) of the younger age group that did not know they needed to update it if they were to separate,” he said.
“The breakdown of a relationship means Australians must review their will or their former partner could remain the beneficiary of any assets.
“The results show that as a community we must continue educating people about the legal ramifications of marriage and separation on our estates.”
Mr Cunich said it was important that people young and old had a will and ensured it was updated often.
“We know from previous research that almost half (47 per cent) of Australians don’t have a will, with almost two thirds (63 per cent) knowing they should have one but don’t due to lack of motivation,” he said.
“Unfortunately this planning stalls at the starting line because people baulk at the potential complexity and the implications.
“This process need not be complex, time consuming or costly – a will ensures the orderly management of your wealth when you aren’t around to exercise personal control.
“It is preferable to have your will reviewed every three years, though if that is not possible, then at least every five years. A review commonly results in no change, but on the rare occasion a change is required it is critical the changes are made to avoid unwanted and potentially devastating consequences.”