A wills and probate lawyer from national law firm Slater and Gordon has urged older Victorians to use the 2011 Seniors Festival to make sure their estate and financial affairs are up-to-date.
Slater and Gordon lawyer Michael Clohesy said that discussing estate planning with family members can be awkward, but it generally prevented disputes in the future.
“This can be a difficult area for people, but it’s one where people are better off when prepared,” Mr Clohesy said.
“When someone passes away without a legally valid will in place, it can cause great uncertainty and anxiety for the remaining family members.
“I often act on behalf of families that have to contend with added financial pressures during that emotional time, because no legal will has been put in place.
“On the other hand, some families are doing the sensible thing and taking steps to ensure a will is complete and put in a secure place.”
Mr Clohesy said research conducted by Slater and Gordon, that found that nearly 14%, or approximately one in seven people aged over 55 in Australia did not currently have a valid will, was concerning.
“It really is alarming that nearly fifteen per cent of people in that generation are potentially leaving their assets in limbo.”
Mr Clohesy said that while government legislation set out a general formula for inheritance in lieu of a will, it was preferable to leave clear instructions for loved ones.
“There is no guarantee that assets will be divided in accordance with the wishes of the deceased if there is no will in place. What’s more, the process is generally much slower than that where a legally valid will exists.
“In the end it can be a very sad legacy to leave behind. That’s why we urge all families to openly discuss the issue with each other, and remove the risk of confusion from the inheritance process,” Mr Clohesy said.