To be or not to be…

Close up of a rope with a knot in the middle

When a loved one dies, the task of dividing his or her assets can be a time of tension, family upset and in some cases resentment.

Statistical data reveals that over the past decade the number of wills contested in New South Wales rose by 52 per cent and by 73 per cent in Victoria.

So what has gone wrong – what is behind this increase in contesting wills?

Perhaps there are a lot of contributing factors but some causes are now becoming clearer as suspects in the spike in contested wills.

A study in 2015 has shown that adult children are most likely to contest a will followed by a partner or ex-partner.

Lawyers who practice in the area of will preparation and estate administration are being confronted on a daily basis with more complex family arrangements. Issues such as divorce and blended families are much more the norm these days and the competing interests of family members should be seen as a key driver to will contests.

Stepfamilies Australia has been quoted as saying that there are upwards of 99,000 stepfamilies with children under the age of 18 years in Australia and there are a further 91,000 blended families.

Contested wills have significant economic, social and relationship costs. Family dynamics are a key factor in determining a fair outcome for contested wills. Family relationships usually suffer, with some damaged beyond repair.

Likening the consequences for family cohesion in circumstances of a disputed will has been likened to an outcome in an ugly divorce.

So when it comes time to make a will, even if your circumstances are not impacted on by divorce or a blended family arrangement, always think very carefully about how you want to deal with the assets in your estate.

Take the time to consider how what you do with your estate will impact on those you want to leave your estate to, but also on those you have not left anything to.

On your death, your family will grieve for you. You want your family to have fond memories of you, your life and your achievements. You don’t want to be remembered as having left a bomb which exploded and tore your family apart.

You want your legacy to be a positive one, not the legacy of a family destroyed by an ill-considered will which could so easily have been avoided had you taken the time and care to consider your family dynamics. Taking sound professional advice on the likely consequences of your actions is a given – so don’t delay, take steps now to set in place arrangements for your passing.