Will-Making Prevalence and Patterns in Australia: Keeping It in the Family
Australian Journal of Social Issues, 50(3), pp. 319-338, 2015
18 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2016
Date Written: 2015
This article provides evidence of the prevalence of wills and the principles underpinning the intended distribution of estates in Australia. Intentions around wealth transfers and the social norms that underpin them occur in the context of predicted extensive intergenerational transfers from the ageing baby boomer generation, policies of self provision and user pays for care in old age, broader views on what constitutes ‘family’, the increased importance of the not-for-profit sector in the delivery of services, and the related need for philanthropy. A national telephone survey conducted in 2012 with 2,405 respondents aged 18 and over shows that wills are predominantly used to distribute assets to partners and/or equally to immediate descendants. There is little evidence that will makers are recognising a wider group of relationships, obligations and entitlements outside the traditional nuclear family, or that wills are being replaced by other mechanisms of wealth transfer. Only a minority consider bequests to charities as important. These findings reflect current social norms about entitlements to ‘family’ money, a narrow view of what and who constitutes ‘family’, limited obligation for testators to recompense individuals or organisations for care and support provided, and limited commitment to charitable organisations and civil society.
Keywords: Wills, Inheritance, Intergenerational transfers, Family, Charity
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