New report released on how Australians approach wills and estates

Research conducted by the University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology, and Victoria University has produced a report on the attitude of Australians with respect to matters such as wills and estate planning.

The report is titled ‘Having the Last Word’ and, among other things, publishes the researchers’ findings as to the percentage of Australians who have current wills. Prior to this report, there was no extensive or up-to-date data in this area.

The study took place over a four year period and used data-collecting techniques which included a survey of 2405 Australian adults, a review of 215 judicial cases from 2011 to identify the grounds relied upon by claimant’s when contesting wills, a review of Public Trustee files involving disputed cases, an online survey of persons with experience drafting wills, and other in-depth interviews.

Key findings 

The report found that over 59 per cent of Australians have a will. This figure is relatively high when compared to other regions such as the United Kingdom and the United States. Moreover, a further 22 per cent of Australians plan to make a will in the near future. It is perhaps reassuring to learn that 93% of people over 70 have a will regardless of assets.

However, some significant findings which require further consideration follow:

  • More than half of participants aged between 40 and 49 have a will. However, it seems that younger Australians are significantly less likely to have a will. The findings show that only 35 per cent of people under the age of 30 have a will. It is important to remember that estate planning is important to everybody regardless of age. It is therefore prudent to protect your assets where possible by ensuring your will is properly drafted.
  • 86 per cent of matters where a will was contested involved the testator’s immediate family. Of this number, 63 per cent of claims involved children of the testator and 23 per cent of claims involved spouses/partners or ex-spouses/ex-partners. While 74 per cent of the claims examined were successful, the average cost to the estate was $11,900.00. In some instances, costs were as high as $500,000.00.

The best way to avoid a claim for family maintenance is to seek the advice of an expert wills and estates lawyer