Estate planning is often a difficult subject to deal with. Many
people find it unpleasant to think about their own mortality, with
the result that the task of estate planning is something they
constantly put off, believing they can tackle it
It's estimated that 45% of Australians die without a Will.
This can cause havoc amongst surviving relatives who, in addition
to grieving for the deceased, have to deal with complex intestacy
laws and uncertainties as to how the deceased's estate will be
distributed. It's common for intestate estates to cause family
friction as rivalries, jealousies, or stress puts everyone on edge.
This can lead to years of conflict, in addition to the expense of
engaging lawyers to provide legal advice and representation if
family members can't agree on the distribution of the
Worse still, if you die without a will or any surviving
relatives, you could find your assets given to the state
We believe that everyone should have a Will. A Will drafted by
lawyers has added certainty that it has been drafted and executed
correctly, streamlining and simplifying the process for
distributing your estate after you pass away.
Two items to consider when you're (finally) doing your
estate planning are how you wish to be buried, and whether you wish
to be an organ donor.
Natural Earth Burials
Traditionally, most people choose to either be cremated or
buried in a coffin when they pass away.
Natural earth burials are a relatively new concept in Australia,
but it's slowly growing in popularity as the practice becomes
more understood and cemeteries set aside land for the purpose.
Basically, a natural earth burial is the burying of a body in a
biodegradable coffin or a shroud in a shallow grave (approximately
one metre deep) without the use of any chemicals, to enable a more
natural decomposition. Natural burials are marked with nothing
other than a tree, so the exact location of a grave is registered
using a Global Positioning System (GPS). The coordinates are then
logged in a register. The benefits are that the body decomposes
faster, there's no pollution of the soil from a coffin or the
chemicals used in embalming, and less land is used.
You should provide clear instructions in your Will as to how you
wish your body to be dealt with after you pass away. Although not
binding on your family members, and often not seen until after the
funeral, by recording your intentions in your Will you'll give
some guidance to family members if they require it, as to how to
deal with your remains. It's not about you (not entirely,
anyway); this is to make it easier for family members when you pass
If you intend to donate your organs, it's essential to
discuss this with your loved ones. In addition to this, you must
also register with the Australian Organ Donation Register. This
will allow medical staff to be able to ascertain your intentions
upon arriving at hospital, as they'll be able to check your
donation status from this national registry.
Your family will be consulted by the hospital if they wish for
your organs to be donated. This will occur regardless of whether
you've elected to be an organ donor. If your family doesn't
wish for organ donation to occur, generally it won't happen
because hospitals don't want to distress the family.
There's ongoing debate as to whether the wishes of your
family should be taken into account if you've elected to be an
organ donor. For the time being, it's your family members who
will make the final decision. This is why it's particularly
important that you register if you feel strongly about the issue,
and discuss your decision with your family members.
Although not legally binding, by inserting your intentions into
your Will you can provide guidance to your family members in case
there's any uncertainty about what to do. We can't stress
how important it is to discuss your intentions with your loved
ones, as a Will is often not produced or read until after the
funeral has already occurred.
Estate planning is easy to delay. But if you feel strongly about
how you wish your remains to be dealt with, or how you want your
estate distributed and your body dealt with, a properly executed
Will is essential.
We especially recommend making an appointment to have your Will
drafted or updated if you've recently had a major life event,
such as getting married, divorced, or having children.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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If you are doing a Will, or you are the executor of a deceased estate, consider what taxes and duties could be payable.
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