I recently spoke to someone who had been through the experience of probate court, as their mother died without leaving a will. Their mum was not young. She was 84, and had started developing dementia the year after her mortgage was fully paid off.
Yet she died with no will and no estate plan. Her children were left to go through the arduous process of probate - and paid significant fees for this along the way. It turned out to be one of the most stressful things that family had gone through - on top of the sadness of losing their elderly mother. Each of the three siblings had their own resentment around the issue, and blamed each other and their mother for not having a will.
So why didn't she have a will? Why didn't her children help her organise one before her dementia really took hold? The basic fact is, they didn't realise they should, and did not know how to go about it. ASIC estimates that nearly half of Australians die without a will. This seems to be an impossibly high number for a wealthy and educated nation.
Here is the opportunity for advisers to show their value instantly. If you were to ask your clients, friends, family or even a stranger whether they have a will, more likely than not the answer will be no. It should be a question that people ask one another, even if it puts the responder off for a second.
In fact, I have to admit when I first hired our adviser a few years back, we didn't have one either. And it was the first thing that happened in our new retainer arrangement - helping my husband and I instantly see the value in having a retained advice relationship.
I often have people ask me, “How much does a will cost?” It’s the old how long is a piece of string, but there needs to be some ballpark figures to this question for people to move forward with it. Not only do people not understand estate planning, they are reluctant to spend money on it. In addition, you are asking them to think about their death - something many of us avoid doing.
As an adviser, if you have to have an answer to the question of how much, and how that translates into a retained advice relationship, it is a great way in to start serving Australians with a real need - and as the baby boomers continue to age there is not time like the present to be asking the question.
As usual, bad news will sell, so telling others the stories of people who have not had a will, and what the outcome was, is a start to get the wheel turning. Write articles, use social media and spread the word via your family and friends. Having a will and an estate plan is vital for the next wave of intergenerational wealth to pass down. The fewer bureaucracy and legal matters involved for people in a time of grief, the better - and only advisers can truly be the champion of that.
So take the win and grow your client base leading with a service that at least half of all Australians need.
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