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No Will? What could possibly go wrong? How can you avoid a ‘lawyers picnic'?
This week I interviewed Brian Herd to discuss the legal consequences of not having your house in order. He gave me this rather entertaining view - of ‘what could possibly go wrong!?’
I hope you enjoy this rather entertaining interview-based article about all the things that could go wrong if you ‘do nothing’. There’s lots and lots in today’s newsletter - so keep scrolling down. And don’t forget to tell your friends where to find Epic Retirement - I love it when you share!
“No will? What could possibly go wrong?” It’s a statement Brian Herd, the partner of HopgoodGanim's Estates and Succession team says to me coyly. He knows exactly what could go wrong, and why we should all be very very afraid if we don’t have an up to date will, and an enduring power of attorney in place.
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Our own mortality is not something that most people want to deal with, or discuss among family members, yet Herd says that’s exactly what we have to do, and a lot earlier in life if we want to avoid setting ourselves up for what he calls a ‘lawyer’s picnic’. Only 42 percent of people have an up-to-date will, and that’s not enough.
“I can tell you three things about death,” he says. “One, you never really know when it is going to happen. Two, it will happen, and thirdly, having happened, it will never happen again. We know that intellectually, but we suffer from this avoidance mentality of not wanting to confront it, or not confronting it because we live in this world of ignorance. People who say ‘my family will look after my estate when I die’ are living with an urban myth about their next of kin. It’s simply wrong.”
It’s a refreshing set of honesty from someone in the legal fraternity who is tired of seeing families turn on each other as they manage the needs of an ageing parent and he’s not just sensitive to the needs of the dying, but also to the families, who often find their financial plans in ruins and their loving relationships destroyed forever through in-fighting over the balancing of their parent’s wishes and their own selfish desires. (continues below)
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The simple answer, put your wishes in writing in a will so the law can ride in on their great white horse and enforce them when you die. Herd gives a fantastic example. If you are a homeowner, a parent, a husband (or wife) and you do nothing, and die without a will, your spouse is only entitled to the first $150,000 of the value of the estate and household chattels, with your partner and children sharing equally in the remaining amount. And in many families, Herd has seen families sell up the family home, out from under the surviving partner, and leave them with only their share to live out the rest of their lives. In these situations, the familial relationship with the remaining parent is destroyed, mum or dad is out on the street, and the legacy isn’t just leaving a challenging life for your spouse, it is also in the destruction of those relationships with the children and grandchildren.
What is the risk of doing nothing? It’s enormous.
What could you have done differently? You could have written a simple last will and testament, putting your wishes in writing, making sure it is signed properly and valid.
After the shock of the will, we moved onto discussing what might happen if you do nothing, and you get dementia.
“This is even more disastrous,” Herd says.
“If I lose my capacity to make my own decisions and I haven’t died. I’m still alive … Nobody in the entire world can make financial decisions for me. What does that mean? Here’s another ‘Lawyers Picnic’. What it means is someone has to go off to a tribunal to get appointed to be my administrator in order to make financial decisions … the consequence of doing nothing is again, a legal process, with legal costs. And again, what’s the effect on relationships?
“If I have a wife and four children, who is going to apply to the tribunal? I've had a situation where there was no spouse and four children, and they all applied, in competition with each other to be mum’s administrator. Now you can imagine the consequence on relationships in that scenario. It was disastrous. They don’t get together for Christmas anymore because they can’t stand the sight of one another!”
Herd urges us to remember that the most important reason to get your legal documents in place early in life to is preserve our family relationships.
He says that the real legacy of doing nothing is the enormous damage to family relationships which simply can’t take the strain of competitive children, striving to outmanoeuvre each other. And the breakdown of relationships can infiltrate throughout the family chain, stopping cousins from talking to each other as the kids take the parent’s position. All because mum or dad did nothing about putting an enduring power of attorney in place.
Brian finishes the lesson with the important message that wills and enduring power of attorneys are a very dangerous thing to ‘do nothing’ about.
“The reality is you need to [do them], particularly if you are concerned about what happens to your relationships, the family relationships, after you die. Not doing these documents is guaranteed to implode your family relationships, guaranteed. You don’t see many lawyers telling you that, but it’s the truth,” he said.
Watch the whole video for greater insight into using online wills, and making sure you create a valid will and how often you should review your will.
Brian Herd is the Partner in HopgoodGanim's Estates and Succession team and the author of The Ageing Parent Trap. He is one of Australia’s leading legal experts in retirement and aged care.
If you are at risk of ‘doing nothing’, you really should take the time to review your last will and testament, put in place an enduring power of attorney, and make sure you have an advanced heath care directive in place, and that your family and appointed representatives have a legally signed copy.
It’s tough stuff to talk about, but it’s much more fun than a lawyers picnic. Make sure you reach out and say hi to me occasionally on email@example.com. I love to hear from you. And remember, I’m keenly building conversations and education on pre-and post retirement here - so if there’s something you think we should talk about, tell me!
Until next week… make it epic!
Bec Wilson Xx
Conversations on social media this week
Each week we are talking to our growing community online, via social media, about the journey into and beyond retirement. Come and have a look and be a part of the conversations. You might be surprised what you learn from others at a similar stage of their journey.
INSTAGRAM (follow page)
FACEBOOK (Join group)
In our Epic Retirement Facebook Group this week we have a couple of big conversations going:
What are you most afraid of as you approach or live in retirement? Read more/Join this conversation
What are the biggest mistakes that you made throughout your pre-retirement and retirement process? Read more/Join this conversation
YOUTUBE (follow channel)
On Youtube Shorts we are mid-way through delivering a two-part short video series on Transitions: and how to transition to retirement successfully (and how not to).
(below a little embed from our Instagram this week)
Interesting reads this week
Was menopause a factor in your premature retirement? ABC Radio Sydney
Retirement worries affect many amid inflation procrastination, The Australian, Anthony Keane
When your kids get their P-plates it’s time to check off this list, The Sydney Morning Herald, Bec Wilson
Old jokes need updating to fit today’s modern humour
And finally, from a Boomer on Substack, writing under the handle called “Quoth the Maven” comes this funny list of updated ‘old jokes’ this week.
Jim Geschke wrote that it’s time for some new and better ‘old’ jokes. In his article, ‘The funny thing about getting older’ he lamented at how poorly our ‘old jokes’ stand up in this new generation. And I agree totally with his sentiment. Here’s an excerpt …
“So in place of shopworn “old” jokes, I submit this new material with a little more comedic bite …
An old man went into a library and asked for a book on how to commit suicide. The librarian said: “F*** off, you won’t bring it back.”
People ask me what I’d most appreciate getting for my 70th birthday. I tell them, “A paternity suit.”
Last words to my offspring: “Erase my search history, son.”
My grandma’s dog died, so I tried to cheer her up by getting her an identical one. Unfortunately, it just made her more upset.
She yelled at me, “What am I supposed to do with two dead dogs?”
My grief counsellor died. He was so good I didn’t even care.
When I die, I want to go like my grandfather who died peacefully in his sleep. Not screaming like all the passengers in his car.
I took my grandma out yesterday morning. Being a sniper is awesome.”
Pre-order your copy of How to Have an Epic Retirement now
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